15 arrested in drug trafficking roundup in northern Arkansas

Fifteen individuals in Boone County were arrested Wednesday by local, state and federal law enforcement as part of a roundup following an over year-long investigation into methamphetamine trafficking.

Duane “Dak” Kees, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas; Diane L. Upchurch, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office; and David Ethredge of Mountain Home, Prosecuting Attorney for the 14th Judicial District of Arkansas, made the announcement of the arrests.

The individuals appearing on the indictment unsealed Wednesday are Zachery Lee Manning, Nathan Ron Collins, Robert Leroy Black, Champayne Lamar Manning, Jerry Don “JD” Richardson, Louis Marcil III, Christy Lynn Reynolds, Malia Anne McEaney, Sydney Lynn Martin, Amanda Marie Wall, Samantha Marie Fitzpatrick, Sherrie Denise Snelling, Michael Allan Barnett, James Andrew Davidson, Jessica Chelsea Starkey, Cristen Shillings, Hailey Danielle Doss-Triplett, Steven Ray Kollin, Darian Brittain, Brayden Thomas Cornelius and Lindsey Brooke Johnson.

Officials say 14 defendants were arrested on federal charges stemming from an investigation which occurred over much of the last calendar year. Three additional, related defendants, Jason Alvarez, Walter Alvarez and Daniel Perez-Lebron had already been arrested on federal charges and are in custody.

The additional three defendants were arrested in early April by the FBI following a significant seizure of methamphetamine near Alpena. A three-count indictment was issued against the three defendants on May 8 and unsealed on May 10.

Also on May 8, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging 21 additional individuals in the Harrison area with a large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy related to the Alvarez arrests. The indictments included a total of 15 counts, all of which involved the distribution of methamphetamine. The indictments were unsealed earlier Wednesday as a part of the FBI’s enforcement activities in the Harrison area.

Kees says, “This investigation is an example of the great work accomplished by our federal and state law enforcement partners working together to combat these dangerous drugs that are a threat to our communities. These arrests and this seizure of methamphetamine should send a serious message to those in our district that are engaged in the distribution of methamphetamine.”

Upchurch says, “Today’s (Wednesday’s) arrests would not have been possible without the dedicated assistance of our partners with the 14th Judicial Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Boone County Sheriff, the Harrison Police Department, the Arkansas National Guard, and the assistance of other FBI field offices.”

Upchurch added, “We all remain dedicated to the eradication of illegal drug trafficking organizations from our great State. We are all also very thankful for the hard work and assistance of our partners with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas and the 14th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.”

Ethredge says, “The success of this operation is the direct result of the outstanding cooperation between all of these law enforcement professionals. Because of these efforts the influx of methamphetamine into our community and its distribution has been severely disrupted. This would not have been possible without the great working relationship with the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI , for which my office is very grateful. Our area is extremely fortunate to have all of these dedicated individuals serving our citizens.”

The defendants who were arrested Wednesday will be scheduled to appear in the United States District in Fort Smith before United States Magistrate Judge Mark Ford in the coming days.

Wednesday’s enforcement activities are part of the Western District of Arkansas’ Operation Iced Ozarks, which is part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation, the 14th Judicial Drug Task Force, the 14th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Boone County Sheriff, the Harrison Police Department, and the Arkansas National Guard Counterdrug. 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.

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