Fort Smith, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, First Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, Brad L. Byerley, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Diane L. Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, announced that 14 individuals were arrested today by federal, state, and local law enforcement as part of a roundup following an over year-long investigation into methamphetamine trafficking in Sebastian, Crawford, and Logan Counties in Arkansas.
“This investigation has dealt a serious setback to drug trafficking organizations that endanger not only our communities in the Western District of Arkansas but also other communities throughout the nation,” stated First Assistant U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes, “The indictments and arrests in this case were only made possible due to the unprecedented cooperation between Federal, State and Local Agencies.
“Today, DEA, in collaboration with our Federal, State and Local law enforcement partners, took down a violent methamphetamine trafficking organization, with direct ties to Mexico and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and whose tentacles extended beyond Arkansas to many other states,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley. “These violent offenders not only sold large quantities of methamphetamine, but also used firearms and committed acts of violence in furtherance of their crimes. Because of persistent and collaborative efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies in the area, a major supplier of methamphetamine to this region of Arkansas is out of business.”
“The individuals arrested today enriched themselves off the misery and sufferings of others,” stated Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch of the FBI Little Rock Field Office. “Working alongside the DEA and our tremendous Arkansas law enforcement partners, we are committed to dismantling criminal organizations who flood our communities with dangerous narcotics and create violence in our neighborhoods. We urge anyone with information about Arkansas criminal organizations to contact our FBI office.”
In August 2020, a federal grand jury returned an Indictment charging several individuals in the Fort Smith, Arkansas area with a large-scale, multi-state drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy. The indictment included fifteen counts, all of which involved the distribution of methamphetamine or laundering of money earned from the distribution of methamphetamine.
This Indictment is directly related to a previous Indictment issued in July 2020, in which four (4) additional defendants were charged in a similar methamphetamine distribution scheme. The four individuals were arrested on August 5, 2020, and are identified as Emmanuel Miranda, Israel Miranda-Zapata, Brenda Golden Day, and Alexis Tirado.
The defendants who were arrested today will be scheduled to appear in the United States District in Fort Smith before United States Magistrate Judge Mark Ford in the coming days.
This prosecution is part of the Western District of Arkansas’ Operation Bear Mountain Bingo, which is part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. The OCDETF program is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s drug supply reduction strategy. OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illicit drug supply.
This OCDETF operation is a joint investigation between the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), the Fort Smith Police Department, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, the Logan County Sheriff’s Office, the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, the Greenwood Police Department, the Paris Police Department and the Arkansas State Police. Assistant United States Attorney Brandon Carter is prosecuting the case for the Western District of Arkansas.
An indictment is merely an accusation. An arrest warrant represents a finding of probable cause. A person is presumed innocent unless or until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The individuals arrested today are: Manuel “Chuy” De Jesus Perez-Echeverria, Humberto “Beto” Acosta-Martinez, Julio Ivan Enriquez-Munoz, Alberto Ledesma, Efrain Maciel-Martinez, Traye Everett Martin, Julie Ann Pyles, Ezequiel Rodriguez, Paula Lynne Rider, Ronal Salinas, Benjamin “Ben” Valdez, Amber Renee Vance, Emily Elizabeth Williams, and Michael Dean Wilson.