Twenty-three people believed to be involved in a cocaine ring in the North Little Rock, Little Rock and Saline County areas have been arrested, U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer announced Monday afternoon.
The investigation, which officials called "Operation Chopping Cherry Trees," was initiated by the North Little Rock Police Department in December of 2013, Thyer said at a press conference at the department's training facility.
"[The investigation] started with controlled buys from single individuals," Thyer said. "The North Little Rock Police Department asked for and received assistance from the Little Rock office of the Drug Enforcement Administration in March 2014."
Since the DEA became involved, Thyer said, there have been eight wire taps and numerous hours of surveillance.
Thyer said as much as 10 kilograms of cocaine moved through Arkansas per week when the drug ring was active.
The 23 people who were arrested are in their 30s or 40s and all have extensive criminal histories, including distribution of a controlled substance, breaking and entering, assault, murder and manslaughter, Thyer said.
The case started in January 2013 after complaints were received of drug sales occurring around 16th, 17th and 18th streets, west of Pike Avenue, North Little Rock Police Department Chief Mike Davis said in a statement.
A U.S. Department of Justice news release states that the organization at the center of the investigation is purportedly responsible for the distribution of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from November 2011 through March 2014.
In the spring of 2013, the investigation revealed that a cocaine-distribution cell linked to McAllen, Texas, was operating from rural Saline County, the news release states.
The head of the cell was Hector Delgado, who was from the McAllen area, according to the release.
On Monday morning, around 70 central Arkansas law-enforcement officers assembled for the arrest operation, Special Agent in Charge Michael Davis with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in Little Rock said.
"This arrest operation has resulted in the seizure of $142,000 in U.S. currency, over $153,000 in property and assets, 10 kilograms of cocaine, 11 ounces of crack cocaine and 11 firearms, " Davis said. "This drug-trafficking organization has been completely dismantled."
Also arrested were Stephen Mark Ware, Wilmer Geovani Fuentes-Ramos, Victor Ruiz-Flores, Robert Young, Jr., Roosevelt Lamont Martin, Harold Blakely Allen, Jr., Montrell Young, Ivory Lamont Johnson, Tyrone Demond Washington, Rickey Dale Washington, Tellys Arkeith Clemmons, Maurice Lamont Harris, Jordan Adam Jones, Eddie Jerome Gilliam, Willie A. Tinsley, Dekeitric Laron Williams, Henry Arece Akins, Randy Deshan Jones, Kerry Lee Wolfolk, Calvin Davaughn Morgan, Arlin Gene Cheeter and Bertha Lee Griffin.