THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2018
United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced a major takedown today of drug traffickers resulting in the dismantling of a multi-state Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) responsible for distributing over 600 grams of heroin, fentanyl and almost a kilogram of methamphetamine, cocaine and oxycodone. Joining United States Attorney Stuart in the announcement were Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) David Gourley, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Resident Agent in Charge (RAC) Adam Black, West Virginia State Police Captain Jason Davis, West Virginia National Guard Lieutenant Colonel William Annie, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Harrah, Fayette County Sheriff Mike Fridley, Oak Hill Police Chief Michael Whisman, Fayetteville Police Chief David Kinzer, Nicholas County Sheriff William Nunley, Summersville Police Chief John Nowak, National Park Service Chief Ranger Duane Michael, United States Marshal Michael Baylous, as well as representatives from the Beckley Police Department, Beckley/Raleigh County Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, and the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. The DEA and ATF offices in Newark, New Jersey also provided valuable assistance in this investigation.
"Today we are taking further steps to tackle the drug crisis which is especially hurting the people of West Virginia," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. "President Trump has made ending this crisis a top priority for this administration and under his leadership the Department of Justice has taken historic new steps to put drug traffickers in jail. Today we announce the dismantling of a drug trafficking organization that spread addiction and death from West Virginia to New Jersey. As part of this operation, law enforcement has charged around 40 defendants, seized multiple pounds of addictive drugs – including heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone -- and hundreds of thousands of dollars of allegedly ill-gotten gains. And so I want to thank U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, DEA, ATF, the Marshals Service, and especially our fabulous state and local partners. By taking drug traffickers off of our streets, they are helping to keep the American people safe."
The takedown today was the result of a long-term investigation led by DEA and the Central West Virginia Drug Task Force (CWVDTF), dubbed “Operation Mountaineer Highway.” A total of 38 individuals have been charged in federal and state court. The long-term investigation which stretched from West Virginia to New Jersey resulted in the seizure of large quantities of controlled substances, over 65 illegally possessed firearms, and over $360,000 in United States currency, which represents proceeds of the DTO’s drug trafficking operations.
The first strike occurred in October 2017 when members of the DEA Charleston Heroin Enforcement Group and Tactical Diversion Squad, and investigators with the CWVDTF arrested a Fayette County drug dealer for selling heroin and methamphetamine. During a post arrest debrief, a drug dealer identified two of his primary drug suppliers. The identified drug suppliers were known to law enforcement in Fayette County, West Virginia, but had eluded investigators. Through their investigation, law enforcement officers were led to a DTO in Newark, New Jersey. Over the course of nine months, investigators conducted an exhaustive investigation linking the local DTO to sources in South Carolina and ultimately to sources in New Jersey.
While this investigation is ongoing, investigators have been able to dismantle a DTO operating across multiple states and responsible for distributing large quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, oxycodone pills, and cocaine. The heroin examined by the DEA lab has been found to contain heroin and fentanyl. The distribution of these drugs occurred in a rural region of West Virginia with a population of less than 10,000 that has been plagued by record high levels of overdose deaths for the past several years. It is believed that the dismantling of this DTO will significantly curtail the opioid scourge in Fayette County and the surrounding area.
The arrests and seizures break down as follows:
• 12 individuals have been charged in four federal indictments in the Southern District of West Virginia with conspiracy to distribute, possession with intent to distribute, and the distribution of heroin and fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, and oxycodone;
• Two defendants have been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm;
• 26 individuals are facing state charges filed by the Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney;
• Over 1000 oxycodone pills were seized;
• Over 600 grams of Heroin/Fentanyl were seized;
• Almost a kilo of methamphetamine was seized;
• Over $360,000 in United States Currency was seized; and
• Several vehicles were seized that were used to transport controlled substances.
Over 100 federal, state and local law enforcement officers took part in today’s takedown effort. The West Virginia National Guard also provided a number of personnel in a support function to the operation.
“Today was a major takedown of a major drug trafficking organization but, more important, today was a major takeback – of our streets, towns, and communities,” said United States Mike Stuart. “This is an important day for the people of southern West Virginia. As a result of the remarkable work of multiple law enforcement agencies, a significant drug trafficking organization has been shut down. We have been incredibly aggressive in our efforts to hold drug traffickers accountable, and we will continue our aggressive efforts until the poison peddlers and drug dealers are out of business. This case is a testament to what can be accomplished when federal, state and local law enforcement work so well together towards a common goal.”
Today’s actions would not have been possible without the seamless collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The investigation was led by the DEA and the Central West Virginia Drug Task Force, with assistance and support from the West Virginia State Police, ATF, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, the Nicholas County Sheriff’s Department, the Summersville Police Department, the Oak Hill Police Department, the Beckley Police Department, the Beckley/Raleigh County Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, and the West Virginia National Guard. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia and the Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, are working together hand-in-hand to remove these dangerous drug traffickers from our streets.
“These arrests today should send a clear message to anyone wanting to distribute illicit drugs in this community,” said D. Christopher Evans, Special Agent In Charge of DEA’s Louisville Field Division, which oversees operations in West Virginia. “We will find you and we will shut down your operation, wherever you are,” Evans added.
“Today is a monumental day for Fayette County and the State of West Virginia,” said Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Harrah. “Today was made possible by many hours of great work by all of the law enforcement agencies involved in this historic investigation. I am so proud of the teamwork demonstrated by our dedicated officers. Because of their efforts the drug trade in Fayette County has taken a significant hit and the work continues.”
“When federal, state and local agencies come together to work joint investigations, the cases have substantial impact on communities,” said Captain Jason E. Davis, West Virginia State Police, Bureau of Criminal Investigations. “This case illustrates the benefits of multi-agency collaboration.”
"A project of this scale will have a measurable impact on this area," said Fayette County Sheriff Mike Fridley. "These operations are not just targeting simple street level dealers, the project's goal is to ultimately cut the heads off of many snakes as possible."
"Today we see the results of a long term, multi-agency investigation into the illegal drug trafficking of multiple suspects in and around the City of Oak Hill,” said Oak Hill Police Chief Michael Whisman. “I hope this sends a clear message to others who are involved in this type of illegal activity."
The investigation is ongoing and could result in additional federal and state charges in the future.
Please Note: An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.