RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. - Forty-four arrests were made Wednesday morning in a major operation aimed at disrupting drug and gun crime in Pope and Yell Counties.
Authorities say more than 25 pounds of methamphetamine and 69 fire arms were seized during the operation.
Law enforcement obtained arrest warrants for 70 individuals associated with the case, and made 27 arrests early Wednesday morning. Eighteen federal and two state suspects were already in custody. Officials say 23 suspects remain at large.
200 law enforcement officers, including more than 150 tactical officers, helped execute the arrest warrants in the targeted takedown that resulted in arrests on multiple charges, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute meth, distribution of methamphetamine, use of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and felon in possession of a firearm.
During Wednesday morning’s arrest operation law enforcement also seized 46 guns, bringing the total number of firearms seized in the investigation to 69.
“Targeting violent, armed drug dealers will be a priority for my office, as well as for all law enforcement agencies in central Arkansas,” Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas said.
“Law enforcement at all levels is committed to working together to help rid these communities of drugs and those who are responsible for their distribution. Today’s operation is a perfect example of that coordination. Our collective goal is to return these communities to their law-abiding citizens, and taking these criminals off the streets has made Pope and Yell Counties safer places to live and work. Today’s arrests are a victory against these dangerous criminals, but know that our commitment to finding and stopping gun and drug crime all across the Eastern District of Arkansas will continue long after today.”
The operation included the assistance of DEA, ATF, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, United States Marshal’s Service, Arkansas Highway Police, Arkansas National Guard Counter Drug Unit, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Community Corrections, Pope County Sheriff’s Office, Yell County Sheriff’s Office, Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force, and the Russellville Police Department.
During the nearly two-year coordinated federal and state investigation, law enforcement agents made 59 controlled purchases of methamphetamine, seizing more than 25 pounds of methamphetamine, as well as the 69 firearms and more than $70,000 in drug proceeds.
Among the 44 suspects are nine people who are avowed white supremacists, including eight members of the New Aryan Empire (NAE) and one member of the White Aryan Resistance (WAR). The NAE slogan is “To The Dirt,” which is in reference to the rule that members must remain in the NAE until they die. These groups are Arkansas white supremacist organizations, which began as prison gangs.
“The DEA is committed to working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to target all levels of drug trafficking organizations that are responsible for drug trafficking and related violence in our communities,” said Stephen G. Azzam, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s New Orleans Field Division. “Our neighborhoods deserve to exist without fear and intimidation inflicted by all violent drug gangs, including the New Aryan Empire. Today’s arrests should significantly impact the violent drug related activity that has wreaked havoc throughout the Eastern District of Arkansas.”
Those arrested today will be arraigned in federal court in Little Rock before United States Magistrate Judge Patricia S. Harris beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday.
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