One of Lee County's top 10 most wanted arrested

Posted at 4:25 PM, Nov 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-04 18:50:54-04

A notorious fugitive in Southwest Florida is now behind bars. US Marshals have arrested one of Lee County's top ten accused drug dealers. Thirty-three year old Joel Mercado is charged with trafficking cocaine but has a lengthy rap-sheet that goes as far back as 2002.

Crimestoppers spokesperson Trish Routte says it takes a lot to make it to the Top Ten Most Wanted list in Lee County, but a phone call by a tipster put everything into play.

"the top ten list is made up of sexual offenders, child abusers, molesters, drug dealers, and on," Routte said. "You have to do pretty horrible things to make it on there. We've been looking for Joel Mercado since January."

Police say Mercado disappeared as soon as a warrant was issued out for his arrest, but as fate would have it he came up for air.

"The US Marshals were right there to greet him," she said. "By 4pm he was behind bars."

Police say Mercado's rap-sheet is pretty lengthy and has been a major drug peddler in Lee County for many years.

"This is his 20th arrest, he's only 33 years old," Routte said. "He's been arrested for everything from aggravated battery on a senior citizen to weapons charges and resisting address."

Four In Your Corner asked people who live in Lee County how big of a drug problem they believe there is on the streets.

"There's a major drug problem," Vicki Lei said.

"Out of a 10 I think it's about a 5," Todd Macusky said. "I think there's a lot going on."

Crimestoppers agrees there's a major drug problem in the county.

"It's rampant and unfortunately it's escalating to other drugs like heroin," Routte said. "We hope this arrest is a clear message, if you're affiliated with Joel Mercado, if you're dealing with him, if you are helping him, this should send a real good message to you that we're not going to tolerate drug dealers in Lee County. If you're dealing drugs on our streets, you're going to go to jail."

Mercado was charged with two counts of trafficking cocaine, as well as one count of Failure to appear for a felony offense. He is currently being held without bond in the Lee County Jail.