FORT SMITH -- Fourteen people were arrested by federal, state and local law enforcement in connection with drug distribution and money laundering in western Arkansas on Thursday, according to authorities.
The roundup came after an investigation into methamphetamine trafficking in Sebastian, Crawford and Logan counties lasting more than a year, according to a news release from the office of David Clay Fowlkes, first assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.
"This investigation has dealt a serious setback to drug trafficking organizations that endanger not only our communities in the Western District of Arkansas, but also other communities throughout the nation," Fowlkes said. "The indictments and arrests in this case were only made possible due to the unprecedented cooperation between federal, state and local agencies."
A federal grand jury returned an indictment in August charging multiple people in the Fort Smith area with a "large-scale, multi-state drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy," the release states. The indictment included 15 counts involving methamphetamine distribution or laundering money earned from distributing methamphetamine.
It's also directly related to a July indictment in which four others who were arrested on Aug. 5 -- Emmanuel Miranda, Israel Miranda-Zapata, Brenda Golden Day and Alexis Tirado of Fort Smith -- were charged in a similar methamphetamine distribution scheme.
Those arrested Thursday will be scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Fort Smith before Magistrate Judge Mark Ford "in the coming days," according to the release. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Carter is prosecuting the case for the Western District of Arkansas, with the prosecution being part of the Western District's Operation Bear Mountain Bingo, itself part of the Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force program.
Thursday's arrestees include Fort Smith residents Manuel "Chuy" De Jesus Perez-Echeverria, Humberto "Beto" Acosta-Martinez, Alberto Ledesma, Efrain Maciel-Martinez, Traye Everett Martin, Julie Ann Pyles, Paula Lynne Rider, Ronal Salinas, Amber Renee Vance, Emily Elizabeth Williams, as well as Julio Ivan Enriquez-Munoz of Oklahoma City, Ezequiel Rodriguez of Heavener, Okla., Benjamin "Ben" Valdez of Paris, and Michael Dean Wilson of North Little Rock.
Brad L. Byerley, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Thursday that a "violent methamphetamine trafficking organization" with direct ties to Mexico and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and a reach extending to many states had been taken down.
"These violent offenders not only sold large quantities of methamphetamine, but also used firearms and committed acts of violence in furtherance of their crimes," Byerley said. "Because of persistent and collaborative efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies in the area, a major supplier of methamphetamine to this region of Arkansas is out of business."
"The individuals arrested today enriched themselves off the misery and sufferings of others," said Diane L. Upchurch, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Little Rock.
"Working alongside the DEA and our tremendous Arkansas law enforcement partners, we are committed to dismantling criminal organizations who flood our communities with dangerous narcotics and create violence in our neighborhoods," she said.