U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer
has scheduled a news conference at 1 p.m. today in Helena-West Helena to announce further arrests in the ongoing Operation Delta Blues,
which has targeted drug dealing and official corruption in East Arkansas
USA Thyer will announce the unsealing of 11 separate federal indictments charging 39 defendants with drug, gun, and fraud offenses. In addition, eight individuals were arrested on state charges. This operation continues Operation Delta Blues, which began in 2011 and targeted drug crime and corruption in Phillips County. Beginning in the early morning hours today more than 300 law enforcement officers executed arrest warrants in and around Helena-West Helena.
No word yet on whether this round of arrests will include any law officers, as was the case in some earlier charges. Though officers were implicated, thoughts that the investigation could move higher up the law enforcement ladder have so far been unfounded.
UPDATE: No officers named in this batch of charges, which include drug, gun and welfare fraud offenses. They've apparently caught a merchant taking food stamps for beer and cigarettes.
A news release said the arrests resulted from two task forces, the Delta Blues and Operation Plastic Castle, which began in 2011.
“Just over four years ago, during the original Operation Delta Blues, I made a commitment to help clean up the Arkansas Delta,” Thyer said. “It has been evident for some time that violent drug traffickers are overrunning the Arkansas delta, including Phillips County. Today’s operation is a reminder to those criminals that the federal and
state law enforcement authorities will pursue you until this community is returned to its
For three years, undercover operators made more than 60 purchases of drugs, acquiring significant amounts of crack cocaine. Wiretaps were also used. Undercover operators also transfer food stamps.
Twenty-four people were charged in one indictment with defrauding the USDA by selling SNAP (food stamp) benefits at the Stop and Shop. The owner and cashier allegedly allowed trades for beer and cigarettes and cash — equal to about 60 percent of the value of the benefits. An estimated $250,000 was defrauded.