U.S. Attorney: 15 arrested in drug probe

Drug trafficking arrests

FORT SMITH, AR (KAIT) - Authorities arrested 15 people Thursday as part of a year-long, multi-state investigation into methamphetamine trafficking.

Kenneth Elser, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas; L. Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI; and David Ethredge, Prosecuting Attorney for the Fourteenth Judicial District of Arkansas, said in a statement that the trafficking happened in Boone, Baxter, Searcy, Newton, Benton and Washington counties in Arkansas, and the states of Missouri and Oklahoma.

Eleven defendants were arrested on federal charges and four were arrested on state charges. Three additional defendants, Juan Delacruz Albarran, Juan Ramirez Vargas and Joseph Macormick Elder had already been arrested on federal charges and are in custody. Law enforcement also executed seven federal and 4 state search warrants in Arkansas and one federal search warrant in Missouri.

A federal grand jury returned three separate indictments on Oct. 5, charging 19 individuals in the Harrison, Arkansas and Missouri area with a large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy.  The indictments included a total of 37 counts, all of which involved the distribution of methamphetamine.

"Today's arrests reflect our commitment to removing criminal organizations trafficking methamphetamine into our communities throughout Arkansas," stated Diane Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge with the FBI in Little Rock.  "We must be diligent and wipe out these networks in Arkansas.  We appreciate the efforts of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and the state and federal prosecutors who faithfully work to reduce overall crime and improve the quality of life for Arkansans."

The federal defendants, who were arrested Thursday, will appear in United States District Court in Fort Smith before federal Magistrate Judge Mark Ford early next week.

The case was a joint investigation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the 14th Judicial Drug Task Force, the 14th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Arkansas State Police, the Boone County Sheriff, the Newton County Sheriff, the Searcy County Sheriff, the Carroll County Sheriff, the Baxter County Sheriff, the Washington County Sheriff, the McDonald County, Missouri Sheriff, the Harrison Police Department, the Springdale Police Department, the Arkansas National Guard, the United States Marshal's Office, the Mayes County, Oklahoma District Attorney's Office, and the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA). Assistant United States Attorney Brandon Carter is prosecuting the case for the Western District of Arkansas.

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