Russellville Operations Results In 44 Federal Defendants Charged with Multiple Drug and Gun Crimes (more than 25 pounds of methamphetamine, 69 firearms seized)
RUSSELLVILLE—Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Anthony Lemons, Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock District Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), William McCrary, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, New Orleans Field Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives (ATF), and David Gibbons, Prosecuting Attorney for the Fifth Judicial District of Arkansas, announced today the unsealing of a federal indictment charging 44 defendants in a major operation aimed at disrupting drug and gun crime 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.
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.
“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.”
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 Empire (NAE) and one member of the White Aryan Resistance (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 Force (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.
“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.”
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 (see attachment for complete list of defendants and charges).
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.
“This almost two-year collaborative effort between ATF, DEA, U.S. Postal Inspectors, Pope County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Highway Police, Russellville Police Department, 5th Judicial Drug Task Force, and other state and local law enforcement partners is a shining example of ATF’s commitment to reducing violence in our communities,” ATF Asst. Special Agent in Charge McCrary. “The armed drug trafficking conspiracy dismantled today was a plague on Russellville and the surrounding communities, and the prosecution and incarceration of its leaders and participants will make these communities safer.”
“The present operation is just the latest example of the long history of successful cooperation between federal agencies and the state, county, local, and DTF law enforcement personnel of the Fifth District,” said Fifth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney David Gibbons said. “From the criminal histories of most of those arrested during this operation, it is clear that in some cases state prosecution alone does not have the resources or reach to eliminate those who make a living from drug distribution. This operation will subject those individuals who have made a career of criminal activity to federal prosecution and prison time. As a result, our communities should be safer, healthier, and more pleasant places in which to raise our families.”
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.
Those arrested today will be arraigned in federal court in Little Rock before United States Magistrate Judge Patricia S. Harris beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday.
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.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys, Liza Jane Brown and Kristin Bryant. An indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine is punishable by not less than 10 years, not more than life, incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $10,000,000, and not less than 5 years supervised release.
Distribution of 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine is punishable by not less than 10 years, not more than life, incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $10,000,000, and not less than 5 years supervised release.
Distribution of 5 grams or more of actual methamphetamine is punishable by not less than 5 years, not more than 40 years’ incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $5,000,000, and not less than 4 years supervised release.
Distribution of a mixture containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine is punishable by not more than 20 years’ incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $1,000,000, and not less than 3 years supervised release.
Possession of a firearm by a felon is punishable by not more than 10 years’ incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $250,000, and not more than 3 years supervised release.
Use of a firearm in relation to a drug-trafficking crime is punishable by not less than 5 years’ incarceration, not more than life, in the Bureau of Prisons, consecutive to any other conviction, with a possible fine of up to $250,000, and not more than 3 years supervised release.
“TO THE DIRT” FEDERAL FUGITIVE LIST
1. TROY R. LOADHOLT, aka Tricky, 36, Russellville
2. APRIL M. TEETER, aka April Crain, 37, Russellville
3. BRITTANY FERGUSON, aka Brittany Gideon, 26, Russellville
4. RALPH A. ROSS, aka R.A., 53, Atkins
5. BRITANNY S. CONNER, 32, San Pedro, California
6. KATHRINE R. ROSS, aka Katie, 26, Russellville
7. CHRISTOPHER S. HELMS, 34, Dardanelle
8. PAULA S. ENOS, 44, Russellville
9. WESLEY W. PIERSON, 53, Charleston
10. JAMES NICHOLAS GEORGE, aka Nick, 37, Dardanelle
11. KEITH C. SAVAGE, aka K.C., 36, Belleville