October 11, 2017
Contact: SA Debbie Webber
Phone Number: (504) 840-1363
Russellville Operation Results In 44 Federal Defendants Charged With Multiple Drug And Gun Crimes
More than 25 pounds of methamphetamine, 69 firearms seized
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. - Today, a federal indictment was unsealed charging 44 defendants in a major operation aimed at disrupting drug and gun crimes in Pope and Yell Counties. The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on October 3, 2017, and was unsealed today following a coordinated roundup of the charged defendants, announced Drug Enforcement (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Stephen G. Azzam, Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, William McCrary, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, New Orleans Field Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & (ATF), and David Gibbons, Prosecuting Attorney for the Fifth Judicial District of Arkansas.
In total, including defendants charged in state courts, law enforcement obtained arrest warrants for 70 defendants associated with the case, and arrested 27 individuals early Wednesday morning. Eighteen federal and two state defendants were already in custody. Twenty-three defendants, including 11 federal fugitives and 12 state fugitives, remain at large. During Wednesday morning’s arrest operation law enforcement also seized 46 guns, bringing the total number of firearms seized in the investigation to 69.
“The DEA is committed to working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to target all levels of drug trafficking organizations that are responsible for drug trafficking and related violence in our communities,” said Stephen G. Azzam, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s New Orleans Field Division, which includes the Eastern District of Arkansas. “Our neighborhoods deserve to exist without fear and intimidation inflicted by all violent drug gangs, including the New Aryan Empire. Today’s arrests should significantly impact the violent drug related activity that has wreaked havoc throughout the Eastern District of Arkansas.”
During the nearly two-year coordinated federal and state investigation, law enforcement agents made 59 controlled purchases of methamphetamine, seizing more than 25 pounds of methamphetamine, as well as the 69 firearms and more than $70,000 in drug proceeds.
Among the 44 federal defendants are nine people who are avowed white supremacists, including eight members of the New Aryan (NAE) and one member of the White Aryan (WAR). The NAE slogan is “To The Dirt,” which is in reference to the rule that members must remain in the NAE until they die. These groups are Arkansas white supremacist organizations, which began as prison gangs.
This Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task (OCDETF) investigation, named “To The Dirt,” began in early 2016, when local law enforcement officials started investigating various crimes being committed by the NAE, including the distribution of methamphetamine. It soon became apparent that the methamphetamine trafficking in this area went far beyond only NAE members, and the Fifth Judicial District Drug Task Force enlisted the help of the DEA and ATF.
“Targeting violent, armed drug dealers will be a priority for my office, as well as for all law enforcement agencies in central Arkansas,” Hiland said. “Law enforcement at all levels is committed to working together to help rid these communities of drugs and those who are responsible for their distribution. Today’s operation is a perfect example of that coordination. Our collective goal is to return these communities to their law-abiding citizens, and taking these criminals off the streets has made Pope and Yell Counties safer places to live and work. Today’s arrests are a victory against these dangerous criminals, but know that our commitment to finding and stopping gun and drug crime all across the Eastern District of Arkansas will continue long after today.”
From January 2016 through October 2017 multiple agencies at the local, state, and federal level coordinated dozens of controlled purchases of methamphetamine from individuals associated with the NAE, as well as others distributing drugs in Russellville. While more than 25 pounds of methamphetamine were actually seized in Arkansas, the investigation revealed that hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine had been trafficked from California for distribution in central Arkansas in the course of this conspiracy. Arrest warrants have been issued for two of the main methamphetamine suppliers in California, who lived in Sacramento and Los Angeles and remain fugitives at this time.
Early Wednesday morning 200 law enforcement officers, including more than 150 tactical officers, helped execute the arrest warrants for those defendants in Arkansas in a targeted takedown that resulted in arrests on multiple charges, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute meth, distribution of methamphetamine, use of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and felon in possession of a firearm. Most of the defendants are residents of Pope County. A majority of the 44 federal defendants are convicted felons, many with violent histories. Among the 69 guns seized include handguns, rifles, shotguns, and several high-capacity assault-style rifles.
In addition to the methamphetamine and firearms recovered, during the investigation agents with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Conway Police Department seized approximately $65,000 from this drug trafficking organization, which conspirators attempted to ship through the U.S. mail from Arkansas to California for payment for methamphetamine. All told, agents seized more than $70,000 in drug proceeds, as well as a Porsche Carrera seized in California that was used to aid methamphetamine distribution in California.
The investigation was conducted by DEA and ATF, in partnership with the Pope County Sheriff’s Office, Yell County Sheriff’s Office, Fifth Judicial District Drug Task Force, Russellville Police Department, Arkansas State Police, Conway Police Department, and United States Postal Inspection Service. Wednesday’s arrest operation included the assistance of DEA, ATF, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, United States Marshal’s Service, Arkansas Highway Police, Arkansas National Guard Counter Drug Unit, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Community Corrections, Pope County Sheriff’s Office, Yell County Sheriff’s Office, Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force, and the Russellville Police Department.