The largest dope smuggling operation in Collier County history was thwarted on Sept. 7, on the north end of Marco Island. An estimated 20 smugglers were in the midst of unloading $20 million worth of marijuana on the south side of Big Marco Pass when they were surprised by deputies from the Marco Island substation.
Operating under a cloudless, moonlit sky, the smugglers had already unloaded 570 bales of South American marijuana a few hundred yards from the end of Kendall Drive. Another 276 bales of marijuana were found aboard one of two 40-foot diesel-powered boats, anchored just offshore in the deep channel that leads to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to the 21 tons of marijuana and two long range boats, Sheriff’s deputies also confiscated four vehicles, two semiautomatic weapons and three radios.
Scott Barnett, a rookie deputy assigned to the Marco substation, is credited with bringing about the county’s biggest-ever drug bust.
Hideaway Beach, the 211-acre luxury development project for the southwest tip of Marco Island, got the green light from the Collier County Commission, after agreeing to repay the county in lieu of beach access. The 623-unit project of single and multi-family residences, north of Tigertail Beach and west of Kendall Drive, was accepted on condition that the developer improve and landscape an area on Marco Island that is water-oriented. In exchange for a 200-foot-wide access point, the Marco Island Corp. agreed to build, landscape and develop a 4.7-acre public boat ramp in the Caxambas area (now the Caxambas Park boat ramp).