Second Round Of Arrests Made In Clinton-Based Drug Trafficking Organization;123 Pounds Of Methamphetamine Seized In Operation
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Arkansas
LITTLE ROCK—Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, along with Matthew Barden, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland, Van Buren County Sheriff Scott Bradley, and Faulkner County Sheriff Matt Rice announced today a second round of arrests in Operation Ice Storm, an investigation into drug trafficking in Van Buren County. The early-morning raid led to arrests of 18 federal defendants and 20 state defendants on charges involving conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine, and use of a communication facility to facilitate drug trafficking.
Eighteen of the 19 defendants named in a federal indictment are in custody, with one defendant still at large in California. Three of the federal defendants were already in state custody on separate charges, and eight state defendants are still at large. United States Magistrate Judge J. Thomas Ray will hold initial appearances for the federal defendants on Thursday.
"While standing on the courthouse steps in Clinton in 2014 after the arrests in the first phase of Operation Ice Storm, I vowed that my office would continue to combat the drug trafficking problem in Clinton and Van Buren County, and today’s arrests mark our commitment to that vow," Thyer said. "Methamphetamine continues to ruin countless lives and families every day. Our efforts in taking this drug off the street are unwavering, and we will continue to work with all law enforcement agencies to remove the individuals responsible for distributing methamphetamine to our communities."
"Today we have dismantled multiple drug-trafficking groups who have been responsible for bringing significant amounts of methamphetamine from Mexico into several communities in central Arkansas," Barden continued. "The DEA, working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, are committed to bring to justice those organizations that continue to damage and pollute our communities with drugs for profit."
Operation Ice Storm began in January 2011 with an investigation into Jeffery Weaver and multiple other co-conspirators. The first phase of Operation Ice Storm resulted in the arrests of 54 defendants on state and federal charges on September 24, 2014. Out of the 34 defendants who were arrested on federal charges, 21 have pleaded guilty or are scheduled to plead guilty, and two remain fugitives (James Knott and Isaac Jauregui-Estrada). As a result of this first phase, law enforcement determined that Anthony Silva, Wesley Harrison, Trey New, and the other named co-defendants were also responsible for distributing large quantities of methamphetamine in the Van Buren County area.
During the second phase of Operation Ice Storm investigators used numerous law enforcement actions, including multiple undercover operations and court-authorized Title III wiretaps. All told, the second phase of Operation Ice Storm resulted in the seizure of approximately 123 pounds of methamphetamine, one pound of heroin, multiple firearms, and approximately $138,000 in drug proceeds. The defendants charged are responsible for distributing or possessing hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine in Van Buren County.
In Wednesday morning’s operation, approximately 8.5 pounds of methamphetamine, 52 grams of heroin, 16 firearms, and $24,085 in drug proceeds were seized.
"This operation represents the important work our drug task force agencies do on a daily basis," Hiland said. "It also reflects what can happen when you have a good working relationship with your federal counterparts and other agencies."
The federal indictment, unsealed today, was handed down by a Grand Jury on March 2, 2016. The indictment charges 19 defendants in 15 separate counts. The counts include conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine, and the use of telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking crime.
If convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine each defendant will face a sentence of not less than 10 years to life imprisonment.
The investigation and prosecution of this case is a coordinated effort through the David G. Wilhelm OCDETF Strike Force and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), and was conducted by the DEA and the 20th Judicial District Drug Task Force with assistance from several law enforcement agencies including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), Arkansas State Police, 16th Judicial District Drug Task Force, and the Central Arkansas Drug Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kristin Bryant and Liza Jane Brown.
An indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Updated March 30, 2016