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Federal, state and local law enforcement officers arrested seven people Thursday in an early-morning operation that dismantled a significant drug-trafficking organization in central Arkansas, authorities said.

The organization was responsible for distributing kilograms of cocaine and other controlled substances, said Cody Hiland, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Scott Reinhardt, special agent in charge of the Little Rock field office of the FBI.

The arrests were made in conjunction with the unsealing of a federal indictment charging 11 people with federal drug and gun charges. While seven arrests were made Thursday, one defendant was already in custody and three others remain fugitives.

According to a news release, the investigation conducted this year involved the use of four court-authorized wiretaps that intercepted hundreds of drug-trafficking calls. Authorities also conducted controlled buys of more than a kilogram of cocaine.

During the execution of search warrants in June, authorities reported seizing about 7 kilograms of cocaine, 3.5 kilograms of marijuana and 13 firearms, including two SKS semi-automatic rifles and a Kel-Tec semi-automatic pistol, as well as $9,540 in cash, according to the release.

Hiland and Reinhardt noted that in February 2014, Arkansas State Police stopped a vehicle on Interstate 40 in Pope County and seized about $328,000 in cash from a courier for the drug-trafficking organization.

On Thursday, officers seized another 13 ounces of cocaine during the arrests, they said.

Hiland said the Thursday operation "took down a significant drug-trafficking organization which has been operating for years in central Arkansas. These are dangerous, repeat offenders who should not be walking our streets and spreading poison in our community."

The arrests were the result of an FBI GET Rock task force investigation. GET Rock includes nine central Arkansas law enforcement agencies and was formed at the request of Gov. Asa Hutchinson in response to the escalation in gang and gun violence in Little Rock.

Among the defendants are two people with prior federal convictions for drug trafficking and one with a prior federal conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Four are on state parole or federal supervised release, and many have previously been convicted of state felonies, including murder, according to the news release.

The indictment alleges that between April 2017 and June, the defendants distributed cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Wrightsville, Woodson and Hensley.

The indictment includes charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana; distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime; and felon in possession of a firearm.

Those named in the indictment included John Garner, also known as Peter Morris and UNC, 50, of Hensley; James Richards, also known as Richie Rich, 49, of Wrightsville; Cedric Bradley, also known as Ced, 44, of Little Rock; Larry Clark, 36, of Little Rock; Antwan Hardaway, 34, of Newport; Jalisa Johnson, 28, of North Little Rock; Isaac May, 39, of Sweet Home; LaQuentin Nichols, 39, of Little Rock; Christopher Seals, also known as Popeye, 43, of Little Rock; Jasper Vick, 37, of Little Rock; and Bridgette Williams, 43, of North Little Rock.

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Metro on 08/10/2018

Print Headline: Federal drug investigation leads to arrests of 7 people

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