Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez held a news conference on Thursday where he discussed the number of drug overdoses and deaths in Osceola County in 2022, citing the danger of the Fentanyl pandemic. Fentanyl is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.

The Sheriff stated that according to medical examiner’s office data, there were approximately 142 overdose deaths within in Osceola County in 2022. In addition to the deaths, deputies distributed Narcan to about 74 people.

“We need to get this crap off the streets. It’s dangerous and it’s killing people. The key to protecting people is holding traffickers responsible,” the Sheriff said during the news conference.

Lopez said that out of the 73 traffickers that were arrested in 2022, none of the offenders were prosecuted for drug trafficking. Instead, charges were either dropped or lowered for drug trafficking crimes in the county.

“The traffickers are being offering to plea to a lower crime, such as sale and delivery, or possession. This allows the trafficker to avoid the mandatory prison sentence,” the Sheriff said.

Under Florida law, drug traffickers can get up to 30 years in prison, with a minimum sentence of three years.

In 2021, the sheriff said out of approximately 50 drug trafficking cases, the five that got submitted to the state received the minimum mandatory sentencing.

“The Legislature wants traffickers in prison. Law enforcement wants traffickers in prison. And I know our community wants these traffickers in prison,” Sheriff Lopez said. “We’re seeing a pattern from the state and it needs to be resolved one way or another,” the sheriff said.

State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court Monique H. Worrell responded to the news briefing with the following statement.

“Today’s press conference with Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez was filled with inaccuracies and misinformation and serves no other reason than to perpetuate a false, collaborative narrative being presented by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott and others that my office doesn’t prosecute cases.

As I have said on numerous occasions, nothing could be further from the truth.

We are currently compiling all data relative to drug trafficking prosecutions handled by my office in 2022. We will send all information to the media as soon as it’s compiled.

The prosecutors in this office work tirelessly to protect the community and keep our residents safe. Their mission is to hold those who violate the law accountable within the confines of the law, in accordance with our ethical obligations as prosecutors. They do not deserve to be woven into false narratives surrounding “policies” that simply do not exist.

There are many nuances involved in the prosecution of criminal cases, and while it’s not easy to create splashy headlines while describing the detail that goes into the work that we do, adhering to the rule of law is our number one priority.”

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell