April 17, 2018
Contact: Kevin McWilliams
Phone Number: (502) 582-5908
Major Takedown Dismantles Multi-state Heroin And Fentanyl Network Project Huntington: Operation Saigon Sunset Takes At Least 450 Grams Of Fentanyl – Enough To Kill More Than 250,000 People -- Off Streets
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - United States Attorney Mike Stuart and the Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge, D. Christopher Evans announced today a major takedown of drug traffickers and related drug networks recently indicted by a federal grand jury in Huntington, as well as other narcotics, violent crime and firearm related targets. Joining United States Attorney Stuart and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in (SAC) D. Christopher Evans in the announcement was West Virginia State Police Captain Mike LaFauci.
In response to a growing opiate epidemic and violent crime in southern West Virginia, United States Attorney Stuart announced the formation of Project Huntington on March 15th alongside federal, state and local law enforcement partners. Today, in a takedown of federal and state targets, nearly 100 defendants have been targeted for arrest including the execution of Operation Saigon Sunset and related search warrants in Huntington, WV. It is believed that today’s actions will result in the dismantling of the Peterson Drug Trafficking (DTO), a major multi-state heroin and fentanyl distribution network. In addition to the dismantling of the Peterson DTO, federal, state and local law enforcement are executing arrests for related violent elements including narcotics and firearms targets.
The investigation revealed that the Peterson DTO had been operating in Huntington for nearly 15 years, trafficking large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine from Detroit to be sold in Huntington in street-level gram quantities. In August 2017, investigators with the Violent Crime and Drug Task Force (“VCDTFW”) executed a search warrant at Manget Peterson’s residence and an associated hotel room, where Manget Peterson’s workers were distributing heroin. These searches resulted in the seizure of two handguns, over seventy half gram baggies of heroin ready for distribution, and other evidence of drug trafficking. Manget Peterson’s brother, Willie Peterson, was identified as the leader and drug supplier of the organization. Multiple sources advised that the Peterson DTO distributed kilogram quantities of heroin in Huntington, West Virginia, on nearly a weekly basis, using a network of re-distributors.
Law enforcement learned that the DEA in Detroit had opened an investigation into Willie Peterson, after a search of his residence in July 2017 resulted in the seizure of over 360 grams of fentanyl. The DEA’s investigations in West Virginia and in Detroit have resulted in investigators seizing additional drug loads and to the identification of two of Willie Peterson’s drug suppliers in Detroit, Michigan. As of April 3, 2018, law enforcement has seized approximately 760 grams of suspected heroin, 450 grams of suspected fentanyl, and 167 grams of suspected cocaine. The fentanyl seized prior to today’s actions could have resulted in the death of more than 250,000 people.
This morning, Manget Peterson was apprehended in Huntington and his brother, Willie Peterson, was apprehended in Detroit. Malcolm Simmons was also arrested in Detroit this morning.
According to Chris Evans, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Louisville Division Office, “Today’s round-up sends a clear message to the people of Huntington and all of West Virginia: drug traffickers who come here to destroy our communities will be aggressively pursued by DEA, in conjunction with West Virginia’s federal, state and local law enforcement components.”
In the Southern District of West Virginia, 15 individuals have been charged in a federal indictment with conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl. The investigation is ongoing and could result in additional federal and state charges in the future.