A Lee County deputy is off the job after being accused of tipping off a massive drug operation before it was busted back in May.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office said one of its deputies texted with a family who investigators say was dealing cocaine and fentanyl.
Detectives conducted a large-scale drug bust in May at a Gateway home that led to multiple arrests, as well as the confiscation of multiple kilos of cocaine, fentanyl, and millions of dollars in cash and assets.
The sheriff’s office called it the biggest bust in county history.
When investigators began looking at the cell phones of the suspects, they uncovered more than 3,000 messages and pictures shared between Deputy Jasmine Lee and one of the members of the Cossio family.
“If her phone number is on there 3,000 times, it likely would have come up in many of the investigative techniques utilized by the sheriff’s department,” explained Rich Kolko, WINK News Safety & Security specialist.
Looking deeper into the messages, investigators say Lee shared confidential and sensitive information about investigators following a traffic stop of one of the Cossio family members. Investigators say her messages may have hindered the investigation and put lives at risk since she provided specific investigative tactics that the public would not generally know.
Internal Affairs investigations show that there were multiple tips reported from 2014 to 2016 that Lee was potentially associated with major drug dealers in the area, but because there was limited information, no follow-ups were conducted.
Lee told investigators she has known members of the Cossio family since she was 6 years old and went to school with some of them. She also attended family gatherings with the Cossios and even went on trips with one of them.
The IA report shows Lee denied any criminal involvement but admitted to facilitating a drug transaction that ultimately didn’t happen. Because of the statute of limitations, she was not charged for that. However, she is now facing multiple charges that include unlawful conduct and improper conduct.
“Once this family knew that they were under investigation, they would have changed their techniques, made the investigation much harder to do, and maybe even lost part of the case down the road,” Kolko said.
The report also describes a situation where one of the Cossio family members was pulled over by a detective. Lee called that detective and asked what happened and said she was a family friend. Investigators say she then shared sensitive information about the stop with another member of the family. The detective later reported that call with Lee.
“If they see something suspicious, even within their department, it’s their job to report it to internal affairs,” Kolko explained. “That is suspicious. That deputy made the right call by reporting it.”
The suspects arrested during the bust have more than 70 combined prior arrests, mostly related to drugs. Arrested were Gabriel M. Cossio, 60; Gabriel M. Cossio Jr., 32; Melissa Cossio, 33; Jesus F. Cossio, 58; Aaron Pruitt, 52; Christopher Ramirez, 53. All have since been released from jail.