- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

More than 100 suspected methamphetamine drug dealers were targeted for arrest yesterday in a crackdown by federal, state and local law-enforcement authorities in raids in Texas and Oklahoma.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spokesman Rusty Payne said 15 persons were named in federal grand jury indictments on charges of conspiracy and distribution of methamphetamine and an additional 88 were identified in indictments handed up in Texas and Oklahoma.

Mr. Payne said 53 of the suspected drug dealers had been arrested by mid-afternoon.

“Dedication, commitment, passion, integrity are all characteristics that are exemplified by the … law-enforcement agencies that worked long and hard to make south-central Oklahoma and north Texas a safer place … ” said Gary Olenkiewicz, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Dallas field office.

Mr. Payne said the investigation, known as Operation 700 Ranch Roundup, began in May and targeted what was thought to be a massive drug trafficking operation. Undercover agents conducted surveillance on suspects in the two states and later made drug purchases from them. Eventually, Mr. Payne said, search and arrest warrants were sought.

He said investigators seized more than 15 pounds of methamphetamine, as well as crack cocaine and marijuana. Before the raids yesterday, he said, agents had confiscated $161,000 in cash and 49 weapons.

Agencies involved in the investigation included the DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Team assigned in Dallas, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Chickasaw Indian Nation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Ten suspects will be prosecuted federally in Oklahoma and Texas, Mr. Payne said, adding that the remaining defendants will be prosecuted in state courts there. He said arrests were made on residences near Ardmore, Okla., and Gainesville, Texas, but that several of the suspects were in custody on charges filed earlier in the case or on charges filed in unrelated cases.

The Mobile Enforcement Team is deployed at the request of local communities to combine federal, state and local resources to dismantle drug trafficking organizations. The teams were established in 1995 to assist local agencies that lack the staff, money and prosecution strength to arrest and convict those involved in sophisticated narcotics operations.

“I am very pleased with the results of the investigation,” said Ardmore Police Chief Jim Hughes. “This investigation proves that if federal, state and local law-enforcement authorities work together that it can make a dramatic impact on the local drug and crime problems.”

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