Three Ocala men, along with a man from Wildwood, were arrested in Citrus County last week on drug and firearm-related offenses in connection with a drug trafficking investigation.
In the early morning hours on Thursday, September 28, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Tactical Impact Unit, with assistance from the the United States Marshals Service Florida/Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force, completed an investigation that led to the arrests of Niko Valentino Dedaj, 20, of Wildwood; Gabriel Ruiz, 38, of Ocala; Antonio Amaurys Perez, 22, of Ocala; and Jonathan Penalvert, 30, of Ocala.
In August of 2023, the CCSO Tactical Impact Unit received information from confidential sources that Dedaj was allegedly trafficking in illegal substances, according to a social media post from the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office launched an investigation and learned that Dedaj already had active warrants out of Marion County for weapons-related offenses. In addition, investigators discovered that Dedaj was known to frequent a home in Citrus Springs.
The CCSO tactical unit and SWAT team, along with the U.S. Marshals Service, launched a surveillance operation on the residence in Citrus Springs. As soon as Dedaj was spotted, law enforcement surrounded the home and took him into custody, according to the sheriff’s office.
When Dedaj was taken into custody, the sheriff’s office stated that firearms and narcotics were observed “in plain sight” at the residence. A search warrant was soon obtained, and the following items were seized from the home: 15 different firearms, including a stolen firearm, a “ghost gun” (untraceable), and a firearm that was modified to be fully automatic; a stolen vehicle; a “trafficking amount” of fentanyl; cannabis; and a stolen vehicle.
Niko Valentino Dedaj is being held at Citrus County Jail on $65,000 bond. He is facing the following charges: obstruction of a search warrant, trafficking in fentanyl over 28 grams, possession with intent to sell cannabis, possession of a firearm in commission of a felony, and rent lease or own a structure for the purpose of trafficking in a controlled substance.
Gabriel Ruiz is being held at Citrus County Jail on $70,000 bond. He is facing the following charges: obstruction of a search warrant, trafficking in fentanyl over 28 grams, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession with intent to sell cannabis.
Antonio Amaurys Perez is being held at Citrus County Jail on $1,000 bond. He is facing the following charge: obstruction of a search warrant.
Jonathan Penalvert is being held at Citrus County Jail on $18,000 bond. He is facing the following charges: possession of a firearm by a felon, grand theft of a firearm, possession of a firearm in commission of a felony, obstruction of a search warrant, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
After the four men were arrested, Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast stated,” I am proud of our team and the partnership we have with our fellow law enforcement agencies. Thanks to our combined efforts, illicit drugs, illegal firearms, and four dangerous criminals are off the streets of Citrus County.”