The U.S. attorney's office
has scheduled an afternoon news conference to discuss a major methamphetamine bust
-- 52 arrests and seize of some 100 pounds of meth. U.S. Atty. Jane Duke will be joined by law officers from Pulaski, Independence and White counties, among others.
UPDATE: Turns out that the news conference was to announce not one big bust, but a series of arrests over the past three years as a part of Operation Tienda Hielo (Operation Ice Store.) The arrests have all centered on one drug ring based in Batesville. Whereas most meth busts prior to 2005 focused on home-cooked stuff, these cases all focus on dope smuggled from Mexico and distributed through San Diego, Phoenix, and Dallas. 32 of the 52 dealers arrested in the operation are undocumented immigrants, but they will be prosecuted in the United States. "Deporting them does not do anything to address the problem," said Interim U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Jane Duke.
Asked about the timing of the announcement, William Bryant, a DEA agent who helped lead the raid said, "The investigation is ongoing, but we felt we'd cut the head off the snake."
Several defendants have already pled guilty and received prison terms as high as 11 years, 3 months. Others are expected to face life in prison if convicted. Four members of the ring are wanted as fugitives, including one believed to be at the top of the organization.
Operation Tienda Hielo has been a multi-agency effort, with work from the DEA, the FBI, the Little Rock and North Little Rock police departments, the Arkansas State Police, the Arkansas National Guard and the Independence County Sheriff's Office, among others. In a press release, Duke wrote that the ring was particularly savvy because its members didn't transport large amounts of cash back home. Rather, she wrote, they bought Arkansas goods with the proceeds from drug sales and resold them in Mexico.
A representative of the Arkansas Highway Police added that another way the ring tried to avoid detection was to transport contraband in Mountain Dew trucks. Which should give new meaning to the phrase "Do the Dew."