JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – After an almost year-long investigation, multiple law enforcement agencies successfully broke up a large methamphetamine drug-trafficking operation centered in Jonesboro.
Authorities arrested 27 people Wednesday connected to the group.
On Thursday, Oscar Garcia-Munoz, one of three men police were searching for, turned himself in to the Craighead County Sheriff's Office. Investigators continue to search for Sergio Lopez-Gonzoles and Julio Cesar Figuero-Garcia.
"Any time you have 30 defendants and you can arrest 27 out of 30, you had a good day," said William Bryant, the assistant special agent in charge from the Drug Enforcement Administration's Little Rock Rock District Office.
The United States Attorney's Office announced during a news conference at the Jonesboro Justice Complex that a federal grand jury had returned a 64-count indictment.
The indictment charges 30 people for their roles within the methamphetamine drug-trafficking organization that operated in Jonesboro and the surrounding area.
Michael Gordon, an assistant U.S. attorney, said the indictment was unsealed upon the successful arrest of 27 defendants early Wednesday morning.
"This indictment would not have been possible without the cooperative and combined efforts of the agencies represented by these men standing behind me," Gordon said, motioning to the assembled heads of various law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation.
In a press release, the U.S. Attorney's Office detailed: "The sixty-four count indictment charges all thirty defendants, except for Blanca Fuentes, in Count 1 with conspiring to distribute, or to possess with intent to distribute, 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine from an unknown date through the Grand Jury's return of the indictment on September 5, 2012."
"This organization distributed what we call methamphetamine ice," special agent Bryant said. "Methamphetamine ice is the smoke-able form of methamphetamine. It's usually manufactured in Mexico, smuggled across the southwest border up here into Arkansas and distributed."
Bryant categorized methamphetamine as the number one drug problem in the state.
He says this particular group from Jonesboro could distribute three to five pounds of methamphetamine ice every week, with each pound carrying an approximate value of $18,000 to $24,000.
"This is a lot of methamphetamine," said Michael Yates, the Jonesboro police chief, "a lot of drugs on the street that this organization has been putting into our community."
Upon serving two search warrants Wednesday, police say officers seized ounce quantities of methamphetamine, marijuana, Hydrocodone, ecstasy, more than $12,000 in cash, six guns and three vehicles.
The investigation began in October 2011. Multiple agencies used every resource possible to identify the main drug dealers, including undercover purchases, surveillance and wiretaps. It all resulted in a massive arrest operation early Wednesday morning, using 75 officers from different departments.
Authorities confirmed that seven of those detained were illegal immigrants.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says the defendants should make their first appearances in court Thursday morning.
The 27 people in custody right now should go before Judge Ray at the federal courthouse in Little Rock starting at 10 a.m.
Those arrested are listed below:
Jose Carmelo Islas
Jose Cruz (a.k.a. Jesus Cruz)
Marco Antonio Martinez
Sergio Lopez-Gonzalez (Still on the loose)
Jose Luis Fernandez-Galvan
Stephanie Lynn Gonzalez
William Jeffery Long, Sr.
Michael Thomas McGuinnes
Julio Cesar Figuero-Garcia (a.k.a. Carlos Ivan Figuero-Garcia) (Still on the loose)
The investigation was conducted by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the Jonesboro Police Department and the Craighead County Sheriff's Office.
Assistance was also provided by the prosecutor's office of the second judicial district.
Agencies assisting with the arrests were the Arkansas State Police, the United States Marshal Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Arkansas National Guard and the Independence County Sheriff's Office.