Florida Highway Patrol seized a whopping 15,000 fentanyl pills and arrested a drug trafficker following an over 100 mph pursuit of a ‘cloned’ vehicle Thursday.
Troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol’s (FHP) Criminal Intervention Unit (CIU) saw a white Mercedes SUV illegally changing lanes and cutting off a marked State Patrol unit while conducting patrol operations in the area of Old Canoe Creek Road and Kissimmee Park Road in Osceola County.
Troopers say the Mercedes appeared to have illegal tinting, and the attached temporary tag was not returned to any vehicle.
As troopers attempted to conduct a traffic stop, the subject vehicle fled the scene, reaching speeds of over 100 mph, side-swiping another motorist, and repeatedly driving the wrong way on a public road while being pursued by marked units.
During the pursuit, the fleeing felon driver failed to negotiate a curve and crashed.
State Troopers arrested the driver, a white male identified as Jonathan Nicola, 22, of Kissimmee, Florida, for felony fleeing and eluding, among other serious traffic charges.
As troopers cleared the vehicle to ensure there were no other occupants, they discovered a digital scale and several small baggies in the driver’s door pocket.
A Trooper and K-9 arrived on the scene, and while walking around the subject vehicle, the K-9 had a positive hit for the presence of narcotics.
Investigators say a search of the vehicle revealed a loaded 9mm handgun, drug paraphernalia, and a box containing a clear vacuum-sealed bag containing 15,000 Fentanyl pills disguised as OxyContin.
The vehicle was found to be stolen out of Lee County, with a fake temporary tag and cloned VINs on both the door and window.
Vehicle cloning is an elaborate scheme involving stolen vehicle identification numbers (VIN), counterfeit VIN tags, and fraudulent documents.
The suspect, Jonathan Nicola, a habitual traffic offender, according to FHP, was arrested and taken to the Orange County Jail without bond on the following charges:
- Trafficking in Fentanyl 4 Grams or More-Felony
- Synthetic Narcotic Manufacturing Schedule I or II-Felony
- Possession of a Controlled Substance Without a Prescription-Felony
- Possession of Drug Equipment/Paraphernalia used to Manufacture/Transport Drugs-Felony
- Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle-Felony
- Possession of a Vehicle with Altered Numbers-Felony
- Weapons Offense-Use/Display Firearm During Felony-Felony
- Flee/Elude Police-Aggravated Fleeing with Injury or Damage-Felony
- Moving Traffic Violation-Reckless Driving with Damage to Person/Property-Misdemeanor
“Despite the unabated flow of Fentanyl flowing into our nation through the open southern border, State Troopers wake up every day willingly putting themselves in high-risk situations like this, so that they can put evil people behind bars,” said Executive Director Dave Kerner. “Despite the advantages the drug cartels reap from the open border, the Florida Highway Patrol will never back down from the mission Governor DeSantis has assigned us: keep our communities safe and fight back against the cartel-driven devastation.”