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Florida drug leader sentenced to life in prison for his role in an FBI informant’s murder, conspiracy to distribute cocaine


Florida – U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington has handed down a life sentence to Robert Lee Ward, a 55-year-old from Fort Myers, for his involvement in the killing of an FBI informant and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. This sentence concludes a long-standing investigation into a drug trafficking organization that plagued Fort Myers and its surroundings for over a decade.

Florida drug leader sentenced to life in prison for his role in an FBI informant's murder, conspiracy to distribute cocaine

Decade of Drug Trafficking Revealed

Evidence presented during Ward’s trials revealed his central role in a Fort Myers-based drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing cocaine across the city and beyond, including Panama City. From his base in Fort Myers, Ward orchestrated the purchase and distribution of kilograms of cocaine sourced from Miami, maintaining this illicit operation until his arrest in 2018.

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Federal investigators, employing confidential informants, successfully made multiple cocaine purchases from Ward’s co-conspirators, unveiling the network’s extensive operations. The situation took a dire turn when one informant, having bought cocaine from Ward, had to be relocated due to a looming threat on their life.

The turning point in the investigation came with the cooperation of Kristopher Smith, a member of Ward’s organization, who agreed to assist the FBI in 2012. Ward, learning of Smith’s betrayal, hired James Broomfield for $30,000 to execute Smith. Armed and informed by Ward, Broomfield ambushed Smith in January 2013, shooting him multiple times and ultimately killing him.

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Collaborative Effort in Justice

The comprehensive investigation that led to Ward’s sentencing was a collaborative effort involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Myers Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Panama City Police Department, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, and the Tampa Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Sinacore and Candace Rich prosecuted the case.

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This case is part of the broader Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) initiative, which aims to dismantle high-level criminal organizations that pose a threat to national security and public safety. The OCDETF employs a multidisciplinary approach, combining intelligence and prosecutorial strategies to combat drug trafficking and related crimes effectively.

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