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“OPERATION BIG WINNER” LEADS TO INDICTMENT OF 20 INDIVIDUALS

June 14, 2011

Little Rock - Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and William J. Bryant, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock District Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today a sweep of arrests in Central Arkansas stemming from eighteen count indictment involving federal drug offenses. The federal indictment is the result of an investigation, "Operation Big Winner," which charged 20 defendants with various federal drug related charges. As of today, seventeen defendants are in custody.

The DEA Little Rock District Office High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Group #62, which is composed of Special Agents from DEA and Task Force Officers from the Pulaski County Sheriffs Department, North Little Rock Police Departments, Benton Police Department, and Jefferson County Sheriffs Department opened an OCDETF Operation sponsored by DEA. As part of the OCDETF investigation, officers were deputized under the OCDETF Operation from the following agencies: Arkansas State Police, Pulaski County Sheriffs Department, Sherwood Police Department, and the Central Arkansas Drug Task Force.

This investigation targeted a large scale drug trafficking organization distributing multi-pound quantities of methamphetamine ice in the central Arkansas area. The methamphetamine ice was smuggled from Mexico to Central Arkansas for distribution.

Today's "Operation Big Winner" was conducted by the DEA, United States Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Arkansas State Police, Pulaski County Sheriffs Department, Sherwood Police Department, North Little Rock Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriffs Department, Central Arkansas Drug Task Force, Benton Police Department, White County Sheriffs Department, Lonoke County Sheriffs Department, and the Arkansas National Guard.

On Friday, June 10, 2011, three federal search warrants were executed by the above agencies in White County and Lonoke County. A total of seven defendants were arrested and taken into custody. These defendants appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Jerome K. Kearney for plea and arraignment Friday.

Today additional federal arrest warrants were executed by the above agencies. A total of ten defendants were arrested. Those taken into custody will appear before United States Magistrate Judge Jerome K. Kearney for their initial appearance this afternoon.

Five defendants remain at large at this time and law enforcement is actively pursuing these defendants.

This case is the result of the investigative work of federal, state and local law enforcement members in the HIDTA program," stated Thyer. "HIDTA provides federal resources to help reduce drug trafficking and its harmful consequences. With such a broad law enforcement reach, we are able to take drugs and those who seek to peddle them off our streets and out of our communities."

ASAC Bryant stated, "Through the combine team effort of local, state, and federal law enforcement, this drug trafficking organization was dismantled. Methamphetamine continues to be the number one drug threat to the citizens in Arkansas. This organization was distributing multi-pounds of methamphetamine ice per week in Central Arkansas. This team effort of law enforcement led to the seizure of seven pounds of methamphetamine ice, which did not reach the citizens in our communities. Law enforcement agencies also seized the following items as a result of this investigation: thirteen weapons, seven vehicles, six motorcycles, two boats and one tractor."

The investigation is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anne Gardner of the Eastern District of Arkansas United States Attorneys Office.

An indictment contains only allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and proven guilty.

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Christopher R. Thyer

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