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SEVENTY DEFENDANTS IN HELENA-WEST HELENA AND MARIANNA INDICTED IN OPERATION DELTA BLUES

October 11, 2011

Little Rock - Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, along Valerie Parlave, Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); William J. Bryant, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock District Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Grover C. Crossland, Resident Agent in Charge of the Little Rock Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Christopher A. Henry, Special Agent in Charge of the Nashville Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigations Division; and Colonel JR Howard, Director of the Arkansas State Police (ASP), announced today that a federal grand jury returned seven indictments charging seventy individuals, including five law enforcement officers, in the Phillips and Lee County areas. The charges include public corruption, drug trafficking, money laundering, and firearms offenses. The indictments were handed down on Tuesday, October 4, 2011, and were unsealed today following a massive roundup of the charged defendants.

The charges stem from multiple Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations spanning more than a two-year period. The investigations, collectively referred to as “Operation Delta Blues,” primarily focused on public corruption and drug trafficking activities in the Helena-West Helena and Marianna, Arkansas, areas. The United States Attorney’s Office utilized sixteen court-authorized wiretaps over the course of Operation Delta Blues. Approximately 700 federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel from the FBI, DEA, IRS, ATF, ASP, Arkansas National Guard and the Little Rock Police Department and West Memphis Police Department participated in the arrests today.

“Our commitment to eradicating drug trafficking and violent crime has never been stronger,” stated United States Attorney Christopher R. Thyer. “When these two elements are mixed with law enforcement corruption, it can make for the perfect storm in a community. It can paralyze honest law enforcement action, silence witnesses, and erode public confidence in our system of justice.” Thyer added, “These indictments and arrests signify a substantial development in what can only be classified as an ongoing investigation into public corruption, drug trafficking, and violent crime in the eastern part of our district.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Parlave followed by saying, "I am confident that today's takedown in Operation Delta Blues will send a clear message that we are committed to rooting out public corruption, disrupting violent gang activities, and dismantling illegal drug organizations. I am honored to work alongside the Arkansas State Police, ATF, DEA, and IRS, who pulled together in an unprecedented way to execute this operation today. Our investigation remains ongoing and I encourage anyone with information to call our Public Corruption Hotline at 501-221-8200 or email: Little.Rock@ic.fbi.gov."

DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bryant concurred, saying, “This type of investigation shows the great teamwork and commitment of the federal agencies – FBI, DEA, ATF, and IRS – and the Arkansas State Police in combating drug trafficking and public corruption in the State of Arkansas. All of these agencies combined their assets and resources to disrupt and dismantle these drug trafficking organizations and corrupt public officials.”

“Some of the best police work I’ve ever been a part of occurred when law enforcement agencies came together to share resources for a common good. As disappointing as it may be that public corruption of the worst kind was the target in this Operation, the public would expect nothing less of us than to ensure we worked together to eliminate the threat,” stated ASP Colonel Howard.

IRS Special Agent in Charge Henry added, “The role of IRS Criminal Investigations in narcotics investigations is to follow the money so we can financially disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations. Working alongside our law enforcement partners, IRS-CI is proud to provide our financial expertise to help make our communities safer places to live.”

The defendants who were arrested today will appear before United States Magistrate Judge Joseph J. Volpe for Plea and Arraignment on October 13, 2011, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The cases are as follows:

  • United States v. Trice, et al., Case No. 4:11CR209 JLH, pending before U.S. District Court Judge J. Leon Holmes.
  • United States v. Colbert, et al., Case No. 4:11CR210 JMM, pending before U.S. District Court Judge James M. Moody.
  • United States v. Turner, et al., Case No. 4:11CR211 JMM, pending before U.S. District Court Judge James M. Moody.
  • United States v. Hughes, et al., Case No. 4:11CR212 JLH, pending before U.S. District Court Judge J. Leon Holmes.
  • United States v. Eaton, Case No. 4:11CR213 JLH, pending before U.S. District Court Judge J. Leon Holmes.
  • United States v. Rogers, et al., Case No. 4:11CR214 BSM, pending before U.S. District Court Judge Brian S. Miller.
  • United States v. Wahls, Case No. 4:11CR215 BRW, pending before U.S. District Court Judge Bill Wilson.

The investigation was conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office, FBI, DEA, ATF, IRS-CID, and ASP with operational assistance from the Arkansas National Guard, the Little Rock Police Department and the West Memphis Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Julie Peters, Benecia B. Moore, and Michael Gordon.

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

See attachments for specific information on the individual defendants. Copies of the indictments may be obtained from the United States Attorney’s website at: www.justice.gov/usao/are.

ATTACHMENT 1 STATUTORY SENTENCES

Conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 280 grams of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 carries a possible punishment of no less than ten years and up to life imprisonment and a fine of up to $10 million.

Conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 carries a possible punishment of no less than five and up to forty years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5 million.

Distribution and possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 280 grams of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) carries a possible punishment of no less than ten years and up to life imprisonment and a fine of up to $10 million.

Distribution and possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine and more than 28 grams of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) carries a possible punishment of no less than five and up to forty years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5 million.

Distribution and possession with intent to distribute a quantity of cocaine less than 500 grams or quantity of crack cocaine less than 28 grams in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) carries a penalty of not more than twenty years imprisonment, and a fine of up to $1 million. An attempt to commit these crimes carries the same penalties.

The use of a communication facility (telephone) in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b) carries a possible punishment of up to four years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine.

Maintaining a drug-involved premises in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 856 carries a possible punishment of up to twenty years imprisonment, and up to a $500,000 fine.

Distribution or manufacturing of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 860 carries a possible punishment of up to life imprisonment, and up to a $20 million fine.

The possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) carries a possible punishment of no less than five years and up to life imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine.

Possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and disposing of a firearm to a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(d), carry a possible punishment of not more than ten years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine.

An attempted violation of the Hobbs Act in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) carries a possible punishment of not more than 20 years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine.

Money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(3)(A) carries a possible punishment of not more than 20 years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine.

Misprision of a felony carries a possible punishment of not more than three years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine.

Attachments

(Operation Delta Blues Attachment 1 Statutory SentencesAdobe Icon Image)

(Operation Delta Blues Attachment 2 Defendants ChargesAdobe Icon Image)

Indictments

(HWH.Trice.indictAdobe Icon Image)

(HWH.Colbert.indictAdobe Icon Image)

(HWH.TTurner.indictAdobe Icon Image)

(HWH.Hughes.indictAdobe Icon Image)

(HWH.Eaton.indictAdobe Icon Image)

(HWH.Rogers.indictAdobe Icon Image)

(HWH.Wahls.indictAdobe Icon Image)

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Christopher R. Thyer

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