An Ocala man who initially was arrested in Gainesville was sentenced to more than 38 years in a federal prison for leading a drug trafficking operation, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.
Jonathan Thomas, 33, was convicted in April by a federal grand jury of conspiring to possess with distribution intent more than 500 grams of meth, more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than one kilogram of heroin. He was also found guilty of firearm- and fentanyl-related charges.
A lead supplier of a drug operation run out of a Summerfield house, Thomas was involved with armed guards and people who packed and distributed different substances to users as a part of the house’s operation, according to the release.
Thomas was initially arrested Sept. 9, 2020, when he was stopped by Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Drug Task Force deputies on I-75 in Gainesville for what appeared to be a rental car with illegal window tint followed by an improper lane change, according to ASCO spokesperson Kaley Behl.
Officers said they smelled the odor of marijuana, leading to a search of the car, Behl said.
After their search, the officers found marijuana and nearly a kilogram of packaged fentanyl hidden in the vehicle’s side paneling, according to ACSO records.
Behl said the September 2020 case was turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration due to the trafficking amount of drugs and suspicious amount of money. The DEA can prosecute crimes across the country, she added.
“You want to go up the food chain and get to the people that are distributing and supplying it and bringing it in from other countries,” Behl said. “That's how you're actually going to be effective.”
Thomas has a previous criminal record in Marion County.
He was found guilty of possession of cocaine, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug-related equipment in 2013. Thomas was also charged with attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery with great bodily harm in 2018. The case was eventually dropped by a prosecutor.
Eight other conspirators of the drug operation — residents in Summerfield, Ocala, Wildwood and Belleview — were convicted and sentenced alongside Thomas. They are serving prison terms that range from more than two years to 35 years.
Aurora Martínez contributed to this report.
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Christian Casale is a history senior and the university desk editor for The Alligator. In his spare time, he loves writing his bio for the website and watching movies alone in the dark.