Although locals claimed the hot dogs were lousy and the customers were few, Hot Dog City was making millions of dollars. The financial success had nothing to do with the food: The business was allegedly a front for a cocaine-and-marijuana operation run by a homegrown gang gone big time, drug agents said.
Newly released documents paint a picture of a violent group that hid in plain sight on the main drag of this historic city, down the street from the police station. At night, they went home to a quiet, working-class neighborhood nearby. Soon, people realized something was wrong.
Cars came and went at all hours at the homes of Daniel Perez, 27, accused of leading the Westside gang, and his brother David Perez, 25. The brothers disappeared for days at a time. Nobody seemed to work. “You don’t have brand-new vehicles in your yard and not have a job,” said one neighbor, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.
In May, drug agents raided five homes and businesses, confiscating cars, guns and cash. Sixteen people were arrested. Most remain jailed. Two more are on the run. Most are charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine. Daniel Perez could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of directing the activities of a criminal gang. He also is charged with racketeering, conspiracy to traffic cocaine and money laundering.
Members operated the hot-dog shop and a secretarial service elsewhere in Winter Garden, arrest papers show. Although they didn’t do much business, the hot dogs in particular were unpopular, neighboring shopkeepers said, a steady flow of money was deposited into corporate accounts. Investigators said it came from drug profits. “It gives it the appearance of legitimacy,” said the lead case agent, Brent Harrison of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The arrests stemmed from a painstaking 11-month investigation that involved intercepted cell-phone conversations among gang members, surveillance, bank records and the use of informants.
If you have been charged with Drug Possession or Trafficking of Drugs in Orange County or Seminole County, Florida, please contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Tilden Law for a free initial consultation.