Sweetwater, FL – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has revealed in a press release that former FIU student and two-time Candidate for Sweetwater Commissioner Jose Ernesto Mejia (Reigada) was arrested today on three counts of trafficking cocaine, among other charges. The news comes over a year after Jose Mejia was arrested in Collier County in 2017 for Possession and Intent to Distribute Marijuana, a charge which Mejia had recently finished serving probation for.
Mejia’s Sweetwater trailer park home was raided by law enforcement officers early Friday morning. His home, located at 11059 NW 6th Ter., Miami, FL, is less than a mile and just blocks from Miami Christian School, a K-12 private school. His former place of residence, which he lists in his voter records and is owned by his family, located at 10634 Sw 5th St in Sweetwater, FL, was also just two blocks away from Sweetwater Elementary School.
The FDLE Press Release dated November 2, 2018, and titled “FDLE Arrests Three on Drug Charges”, states that the investigation started as recently as October as a joint effort by the FDLE, Sweetwater Police Department, the United State Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office (SAO). The FDLE started the criminal investigation after receiving information from a confidential source. A CBS4 report on the arrest also mentions the ATF and FHP in the investigation efforts.
Two other men were arrested on cocaine trafficking charges as a result of the investigation, Christopher Laboy, 24, and Angel Berdecia Campo, 63.
Mejia was reportedly taken to Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami and not placed in the general population of inmates, but processed through a special section made for VIPs. If true, this is a curious choice for law enforcement officials, as Mejia has never held elected office. The Miami Dade Corrections website lists Mejia’s bond set at $40,000. The serious felony charges include “Cocaine Trafficking”, “Unlawful use of a two-way communications device“, and “Ownership, lease, rental, or possession for trafficking in or manufacturing a controlled substance“.
The criminal charges point to a likely scenario: Mejia was allegedly using a police two-way radio and his trailer home for a drug selling operation. All the while Mejia would make frequent appearances at Sweetwater City Commission meetings, often making commentary on local laws passed and complaining about corruption.
Mejia Rubbed Shoulders With Sweetwater Leaders
Mejia would often brag on social media about his friendships with Sweetwater politicians, police officers, and business owners. In various pictures, Mejia is standing with Sweetwater Commissioners Idania Llanio and Cecilia Holtz-Alonzo. In another picture, he’s standing with Commissioner Manuel Duasso at a community event, and in another, he’s pictured with a police officer. Mejia aspired to become commissioner of the City of Sweetwater by running in Group 5 against longtime Commissioner Manuel Duasso, the longest-serving active politician in West Miami-Dade.
FIU Bridge Claims and TV Fame
After the tragedy of the collapsed FIU Bridge in 2018, Jose Mejia gained the national spotlight as a witness in all of the top news organizations covering the tragedy. During an MSNBC interview with Maya Rodriguez, Mejia alleged running to the scene and trying to help a dying victim. “I was enjoying lunch and enjoying coffee with city (of Sweetwater) officials and some of our top police staff when all of a sudden we hear a long bang. I look to one of the (Sweetwater police) command staff and I say ‘oh my god’ and they look at me and they say ‘the bridge’ and I say ‘no it can’t be’ and one of them runs to grab the radio, and sure enough it’s the bridge. At that point, we all ran and it was just a horrible scene… There was a young gentleman in a red Honda, and unfortunately, there was nothing I could do but he stuck his hand out and at that point he passed away, he expired.”
Mejia used the tragedy of the FIU Bridge collapse to denounce what he called corruption by Sweetwater and FIU leaders, a major talking point for his political campaign.
Retaliating Against Sweetwater Post
This is Mejia’s fourth arrest, with previous arrests including various arrests for Marijuana including a 2017 arrest for Intent to sell Marijuana and an arrest for armed robbery. In 2017, Sweetwater Post founder Josh C. Mayorga filed a police complaint against Mejia after Mejia made threatening phone calls to Mayorga in retaliation for publishing Mejia’s Collier County arrest. Mejia denied the complaint in a subsequent Miami Herald article.
Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez commented on the arrest during an NBC6 Miami interview,
“He would have the gall that while he is transporting and selling cocaine to still run for office, so it’s a huge black eye for the City of Sweetwater Who’s been able to clean its image for the last three years… A candidate for city commission office has just been arrested for trafficking the sale of narcotics inside of a trailer park.”
The FDLE Special Agent In Charge and the Miami Dade State Attorney both commented on the drug problem in the community:
“With cocaine deaths continuing to rise across Florida, it’s imperative to stop the flow of drugs into our communities, and these arrests will help that effort in Sweetwater,” said FDLE Miami Special Agent in Charge Troy Walker. “I appreciate the hard work of our FDLE agents, Sweetwater PD and DEA agents on this case.”
“As we know only too well, drug trafficking corrupts all that it touches,” commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “The allegations contained in these charges are extremely serious for all of the individuals arrested.”
Mejia will likely abandon all political aspirations after these serious felony charges.
UPDATE 11/5/2018 2 PM EST
Miami Dade County Corrections website shows Mejia’s bond has been set to $90,000. In order to post bail through a bail bondsman, Mejia would have to pay 10% of the total bond amount set by the court, or $9,000.
CBS4 Miami Coverage of Jose Mejia’s Cocaine Trafficking arrest:
America TV coverage of Jose Mejia in Court (Spanish)