Local and federal authorities swept through Columbia County and other areas early today, serving state and federal warrants to melt a crystal methamphetamine trafficking ring.
Conner Eldridge, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced the indictments against 24 people in Waldo, Magnolia, and Texarkana, and De Soto and Dallas, Texas, during a press conference at the Columbia County Courthouse.
Lawmen seized about $150,000 in cash, five firearms and several vehicles as a result of the year-long investigation. Some of the cash was seized as a result of traffic stops, including a $57,000 seizure from one suspect driving through Lewisville.
Magnolia, Columbia County and Arkansas State Police made 10 arrests Thursday, and federal authorities made six other arrests in Arkansas and Texas. Four state and four federal suspects remain at large.
Eldridge and David Butler, deputy prosecuting attorney in Columbia County for Arkansas’ 13th Judicial District, said they hoped the arrests will have an impact on drug trafficking in South Arkansas.
Butler confirmed these arrests of Columbia County residents as a result of Operation Crystal Clear:
Sammy Shane Cogbill, 29, Waldo, delivery of a controlled substance-methamphetamine.
John David Woodard, 41, Magnolia, delivery of a controlled substance-methamphetamine.
Michael D. Hunter, 36, Waldo, engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.
Sammy Otwell Jr., 39, Magnolia, delivery of a controlled substance-methamphetamine.
Mario Meadows, 23, Magnolia, delivery of a controlled substance-methamphetamine.
Ricardo Walker, aka Lil One, 22, Waldo, delivery of a controlled substance-methamphetamine.
Jerrod Wilson, 26, Magnolia, delivery of a controlled substance-cocaine.
Steven Atkinson, 53, Waldo, two counts of delivery of a controlled substance-methamphetamine, and felon in possession of a firearm.
Brandon Chambliss, 33, Magnolia, delivery of a controlled substance-methamphetamine.
Johnny Carter, 45, Magnolia, two counts of delivery of a controlled substance-methamphetamine.
Myron Watson, 22, of Waldo, was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana-first offense, during Thursday's round-up. He was not named in the federal indictments or state informations in Operation Crystal Clear.
Four state defendants remain fugitives.
The federal defendants arrested today, all for distribution of methamphetamine, were:
Curtis Cole, 45, Waldo.
Courtney Loudermill, 34, Waldo.
Jamie Martin, 33, Waldo.
Claudie Miller Jr., 40, Dallas.
Lee Williams, 40, Magnolia.
Eric Wyrick, 34, Texarkana.
Four federal defendants remain fugitives.
The federal defendants face a penalty of up to 20 years in prison for the distribution of methamphetamine. The most serious charges for distribution of more than 50 grams of methamphetamine and for conspiracy to distribute more than 280 grams of crack cocaine have maximum penalties of life in prison.
The federal defendants arrested will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant in federal court in El Dorado. The state defendants arrested will appear before Judge Larry Chandler in Columbia County Circuit Court in Magnolia. All of the court appearances are expected Friday.
“This is a significant drug trafficking organization. It is another drug trafficking organization that is out of business and off our streets. We are going to do everything in our power to make sure that people don’t come back in and replace them and if they do, we remain dedicated to investigating and prosecuting, and holding those folks accountable,” Eldridge said.
“Good community police work,” prompted the investigation, Eldridge said. Law enforcement working together to pool resources made a difference in Operation Crystal Clear, he said.
Operation Crystal Clear is a joint operation between the Little Rock FBI Division and El Dorado resident agent 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 resident agent, 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.
See more details shortly at magnoliareporter.com .