According to deputies, witnesses saw Robert Kelley pick up the soaked packages Thursday morning as they washed up on the shore near Jungle Hut Park in Palm Coast.
The person who called 911 told dispatchers Kelley and others were trying to open and take the bags.
Deputies said when they got to the scene, Kelley did not attempt to tell them he found the drugs. When deputies asked him about it, he pointed at his car and said he was holding it for them, investigators said.
.@FlaglerSheriff arrested a man they say stole weed that washed up on the beach. Witnesses saw Robert Kelley picked up 11lbs of wet weed & hide it in his trunk under a towel. He told deputies he was holding it for them. pic.twitter.com/hXb4B2O2V2
The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of a package found on Ponte Vedra Beach Thursday at about 6 a.m. When they arrived on scene, a man said he found the package washed up on the shore.
Deputies found the 12-by-12-inch taped bag contained large amounts of marijuana, which was later weighed at approximately 30 pounds.
“Most of those kinds of exchanges go on in the middle of the night,” SJSO Public Information Officer Chuck Mulligan said. “There’s no telling where at in the ocean this could have possibly occurred. It could have been off the coast of St. Johns County or it could have been somewhere in south Florida that drifted for days.”
SJSO said they reached out to other law enforcement agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration to see if they have similar cases.
The package is being contained in a freezer as evidence. Mulligan said if they do not find any leads, then it will be scheduled to be destroyed.
“What we normally find is that these are either air-drops where an aircraft is dropping this in the ocean and there’s a boat waiting to pick those packages up and one or two float away from them,” Mulligan said. “Or it’s an exchange of two boats and maybe a package falls overboard and floats away and they can’t see it.”
“Being so in close proximity to Central, South America, that we are many times a gateway to get it into the U.S.,” he said. “So it’s not uncommon for us to see this every once in a while, maybe once or twice a year in St. Johns County.”