Multiple arrests after year-long meth trafficking investigation in the River Valley

State News

FILE – This June 13, 2016 file photo shows Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in Florida. On Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, the FBI arrested U.S. federal narcotics agent Jose Irizarry and his wife, Nathalia Gomez Irizarry, at their residence in Puerto Rico, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the arrest. He has been charged with conspiring to launder money with the very same Colombian drug cartels he was supposed to be fighting. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Fourteen people were arrested on Thursday after a year-long investigation into methamphetamine trafficking in the River Valley, according to a release from the Justice Department.

According to the release, the operation was 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

“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,” said 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.”

The individuals arrested Thursday were identified as: 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.

“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,” said 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.”

According to the release, the defendants will appear in the United States District in Fort Smith before United States Magistrate Judge Mark Ford “in the coming days.”

Assistant United States Attorney Brandon Carter is prosecuting the case for the Western District of Arkansas.

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