News and Press Releases

OPERATION LA PANTERA NEGRA RESULTS IN INDICTMENT OF 16
INDIVIDUALS IN NORTHWEST ARKANSAS FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGES



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 21, 2012

 






Springdale, Arkansas - Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western 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 that a multi-agency investigation into
drug trafficking activities in the Northwest Arkansas area has resulted in an indictment charging 16
Northwest Arkansas men and women. Operation La Pantera Negra has been ongoing for over 2 years
and has resulted in the prosecution of a total of 31 individuals during that time.
United States Attorney Conner Eldridge commented, “We remain focused on investigating
and prosecuting Drug Trafficking Organizations in Northwest Arkansas and throughout the Western
District. Our goal is to investigate, dismantle and prosecute high-level, violent drug trafficking
organizations that threaten our communities. Thanks to the hard work of federal, state and local law
enforcement, numerous members of this organization have been arrested and charged. We will
continue to work to make Northwest Arkansas safe from the drug trade and related criminal
activity.”
Assistant Special Agent in Charge William J. Bryant commented, “This investigation took
good solid police work and the teamwork of multiple agencies. With the additional support provided
by the Northwest Arkansas Major Investigative Team, we continue to dismantle drug trafficking
organizations in Arkansas.”
According to court documents and other information disclosed in court, DEA agents
conducted multiple undercover purchases in February 2011 leading officers to obtain a search
warrant for a residence in Fayetteville. During this search, officers recovered approximately 20
pounds of methamphetamine. In February 2012, DEA Agents followed three targets of the
investigation to Dallas, Texas where a stash house was located. Through surveillance, agents
witnessed three individuals pick up methamphetamine from the stash house. Following a traffic stop,
agents seized 2.2 pounds of methamphetamine. Based on information that developed during the
traffic stop, officers obtained and executed a search warrant on the stash house, resulting in a seizure
of 83 pounds of methamphetamine and the arrest of two additional suspects. Agents also seized six
vehicles, one weapon and approximately $48,000.00.
On March 6, 2012, a federal grand jury for the Western District of Arkansas returned an
indictment charging 16 defendants with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, multiple counts
of distribution of methamphetamine and money laundering. Over the course of the two and a half
year investigation, 31 defendants have been charged and law enforcement officers have seized over
118 pounds of methamphetamine, over $82,000, 16 vehicles and 12 firearms. The Operation and
Investigation remain ongoing. Cases previously prosecuted as a part of this operation have resulted
in sentences ranging up to 16 years in prison.
This case was initiated by the Northwest Arkansas Major Investigative Team which is
comprised of: DEA, Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Benton County Sheriff’s Department,
Arkansas State Police, Fayetteville Police Department, Springdale Police Department, Bentonville
Police Department, Rogers Police Department and the Arkansas National Guard. Homeland Security
Investigations and the 4th Judicial District Drug Task Force also assisted. The Northwest Arkansas
Major Investigative Team is a part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (“HIDTA”) program.
Washington and Benton Counties are considered High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. As a result,
additional federal funds are provided for investigation and prosecution of drug cases. This case is
being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Clay Fowlkes.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine is life in prison. The
maximum penalty for distribution of methamphetamine and money laundering is 20 years
imprisonment each.
The charges in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless or
until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
* * * E N D * * *
The Office of U.S. Attorney
Conner Eldridge
 
Photo of Conner Eldridge  
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Western District of Arkansas
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