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Press Release

United States Attorney Announces City-wide Drug Bust, Arrest Of More Than 20 Defendants

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS – Joseph H. Hogsett, the United States Attorney, announced today a city-wide operation that dismantled a massive drug trafficking organization in the Indianapolis area. The arrests are part of “Operation Five Dollar Footlong,” which targeted a group that allegedly imported thousands of pounds of marijuana into the city. As a result of the search and arrest warrants executed early this morning, 21 defendants have been charged (10 federally, 11 in state court) and significant quantities of drugs and guns have been seized.

“In two years, this federal operation has resulted in the seizure of more than 15,000 pounds of marijuana and nearly $5 million in suspected drug proceeds,” Hogsett said. “Thanks to the tireless work of our law enforcement partners, we can say today that another dangerous criminal organization has been dismantled in Indianapolis.”

Background on “Operation Five Dollar Footlong”

In March 2011, members of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force and the Metro Drug Task Force (Metro Drug) began an investigation into marijuana trafficking in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Based on information received by the agencies, it was believed that illegal activities were being coordinated out of a Mexican grocery store on the west side of Indianapolis.

In October 2011, charges were filed against multiple individuals for this drug activity. A search of a tractor trailer and a warehouse resulted in the seizure of five tons of marijuana and more than $4.3 million in drug proceeds. The investigation was dubbed “Operation Five Dollar Footlong” because the tractor trailer in which the drug proceeds were found was carrying a large quantity of sandwich wrappers when it was stopped by law enforcement.

In the two years that followed, agents continued investigating the activities of those involved in the marijuana trafficking organization. Utilizing extensive phone and in-person surveillance, agents uncovered an extensive network of drug activity in the Indianapolis area. Allegations unsealed today indicate that Mexican suppliers were regularly shipping thousands of pounds of marijuana into Indianapolis. Once sold, the drug proceeds would be hidden in vehicles and transported to the Mexican border.

This Morning’s Operation

Early this morning, federal agents executed 17 federal and state search warrants in Indianapolis as part of “Operation Five Dollar Footlong,” most of which targeted people and property on the near-west side of the city. A total of 21 defendants have been charged in federal and state court for their alleged roles in the drug trafficking organization, 16 of whom were brought into custody today. That includes eight federal defendants and eight state defendants.

Preliminary information on the search warrants executed today indicates that seizures included:

• Approximately 100 pounds of marijuana.
• More than 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine.
• Weapons, including 7 firearms.
• At least 26 vehicles believed to have been used in the scheme.
• Between $80-100,000 in suspected drug proceeds.

In addition, documents unsealed today indicate that over the last two years, agents have seized an additional two tons of marijuana in Indianapolis as part of this ongoing investigation.

At approximately 6:00am, an arrest warrant was executed at 5937 Beachview Drive in Indianapolis. Law enforcement officers were confronted by an armed suspect who ignored verbal commands to lower his weapon, reportedly pointing his gun at the detectives. The suspect was shot and pronounced dead at the scene. The death investigation will be conducted by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Critical Incident Response Team.

Criminal Procedure

All told, twenty five defendants have now been federally charged as part of Operation Five Dollar Footlong. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Conour, the defendants arrested today on federal charges are scheduled to have initial appearances before a Magistrate Judge in Indianapolis this afternoon. If convicted, those defendants face ten years to life imprisonment on the count of conspiracy with the intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. Defendants arrested on state charges face a variety of charges related to their roles in the organization.

These arrests are the result of a collaborative investigation involving the DEA and the Indianapolis Metro Drug Task Force, along with the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. State and local partners included the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, the Hamilton County Drug Task Force, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and a number of other local law enforcement agencies.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated January 26, 2015