Federal and state lawmen from across South Arkansas and Texas swept through four communities in a bi-state drug operation Thursday which resulted in 16 arrests and the continuing pursuit of eight more suspects in a year-long drug investigation.
Federal and state lawmen from across South Arkansas and Texas swept through four communities in a bi-state drug operation Thursday which resulted in 16 arrests and the continuing pursuit of eight more suspects in a year-long drug investigation. U. S. Western District Attorney Conner Eldridge, of Fort Smith, along with Randall Coleman, FBI special agent in charge; and Ian Vickery, 13th Arkansas Judicial District prosecuting attorney, announced the indictment and arrests involving the 24 suspects believed to be part of an international drug pipeline from Mexico, through the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex into Waldo and Magnolia, Arkansas. The investigation, known as Operation Crystal Clear, resulted in the seizure Thursday of more than three pounds of methamphetamine, five firearms, some $150,000 in cash and other items, according to lawmen involved. According to indictments of the individuals involved, the drug operation dealt in the distribution of pound quantities of the drug. In addition to the arrests made Thursday, five search warrants were executed in Waldo, Magnolia, Dallas, Texas, and DeSoto, Texas on Thursday. “Working together, we remain focused on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting drug-trafficking organizations in South Arkansas and throughout the Western District,” Eldridge said in Thursday's announcement at the Columbia County Courthouse in Magnolia. “Those who bring this illegal activity onto our streets threaten our communities. We will continue to work to ensure that those who choose to traffic in drugs and participate in associated illegal activity are held accountable so that Arkansans can have confidence that our streets are safe. I thank the dedicated members of local, state, and federal law enforcement who have worked together tirelessly in this effort.” Federal defendants arrested Thursday included, Curtis Cole, 45, of Waldo; Courtney Loudermill, 34, of Waldo; Jamie Martin, 33, of Waldo; Claudie Miller Jr., 40, of Dallas, Texas; Lee Williams, 40, of Magnolia; and Eric Wyrick, 34, of Texarkana, Texas. Four federal defendants remain fugitives, Eldridge said. The federal defendants face up to 20 years in prison for the distribution of methamphetamine upon conviction. The most serious charges for distribution of more than 50 grams of methamphetamine and the conspiracy counts in the indictments to distribute more than 280 grams of crack cocaine have maximum penalties of life in prison, Eldridge said. Indicted along with the other federal defendants by a federal grand jury in El Dorado, but not in custody Thursday were Chevis Johnson, aka “B.G.”, Ervin K. Moss, aka “Kelso”, Monte Dismuke, and Kearthur Brantley. Martin, Miller, Johnson, Loudermill, Cole, Moss and Dismuke are accused in a 15-count indictment with conspiring on separate occasions and with each other and various members of the group to distribute at least 280 grams of crack cocaine and more than 50 grams of methamphetamine during a period from March through October, 2012. The investigation of the allegations contained in the indictment also resulted in the seizure of $90,700 in a traffic stop in Witchita Falls, Texas, and $57,212 seized in a traffic stop in Lewisville, Ar., and the government seeks forfeiture of those funds under the indictment. Williams is accused in a two-count indictment returned in El Dorado of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine in April, 2011, and the government seeks forfeiture of monies and other property, real and personal, stemming from those instances. Wyrick is accused in a five-count indictment returned in El Dorado with five separate instances of distributing more than five grams of methamphetamine in February and March, 2012, and the government seeks forfeiture of monies and other property, real and personal, stemming from those instances. Brantley, who remains a fugitive, is accused in a single count indictment returned in El Dorado with one instance in February, 2012, of distributing drugs containing methamphetamine, and the government seeks forfeiture of monies and other property, real and personal, stemming from that instance. The federal defendants were to be taken before U. S. Magistrate Barry Bryant in El Dorado. State defendants were to be given initial court appearances before 13th Judicial District Circuit Judge Larry Chandler in Magnolia. “We all know that the damage from drugs is suffered locally by our families and communities, but the business of drug trafficking is national, if not international; so this 13th Judicial District is especially grateful for the multistate leadership and support provided this district by the FBI, the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge in our fight against drug crimes,” Ian Vickery, 13th Judicial District prosecutor said Thursday. State defendants arrested Thursday included Steven Atkinson, of Waldo; Johnny Carter, of Magnolia; Brandon Chambliss, 33, of Magnolia; Samuel Cogbill, 29, of Waldo; Michael Hunter, 36, of Waldo; Mario Meadows, 23, of Magnolia; Sammy Otwell, of Magnolia; Ricardo Walker, 21, of Waldo; Jarrod Wilson, of Magnolia; and John Woodward. Four state defendants are still fugitives, according to Eldridge's announcement. Operation Crystal Clear is an on-going joint operation between the Little Rock FBI Division and El Dorado RA Safe Streets Task Force, which consists of the El Dorado Police Department, Union County Sheriff's Department, Magnolia Police Department, Columbia County Sheriff's Department, Camden Police Department, Ouachita County Sheriff's Office, Crossett Police Department, Arkansas State Police, and Southern Arkansas University Police Department. Other agencies assisting with the operation include: the U.S. Marshal's Service, Lafayette County Sheriff's Office, FBI Texarkana Texas RA, Dallas FBI Division, and the Bi-State Narcotics Task Force which consists of Texarkana, Arkansas and Texas Police Departments and the Miller County Sheriff's Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Quinn and Jonathan Ross are prosecuting the case for the Western District of Arkansas, under Eldridge's jurisdiction.