Following an extensive federal drug investigation, 15 defendants accused of trafficking large quantities of cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine and heroin are now behind bars.
Altogether, there are 19 who face charges following Operation Mad Hatter. The investigation was headed by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is an ongoing DEA Domestic Cartel Initiative investigation.
As of Monday, 15 of the 19 defendants were arrested.
The arrests follow the unsealing of the federal indictment against each defendant who was charged by a grand jury Wednesday.
More than half of those charged were arrested in February, Allison W. Bragg, a spokesman for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said.
Operation Mad Hatter has resulted in pulling millions of dollars worth of drugs of the streets.
“In February 2019, DEA made the first arrests related to Operation Mad Hatter, and [Monday’s] arrests stem from activity uncovered during the ongoing investigation,” Bragg said. “Ten defendants had been arrested throughout the investigation, and the remaining five were arrested this morning, completing this phase of the operation.”
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Cody Hiland said combating drug crimes will help protect the community from he violence associated with drug trafficking.
“The charges in Operation Mad Hatter are an example of the continued pressure we will apply to drug trafficking operations,” he said Monday. “Protecting our citizens from he violence that surrounds drug trafficking is a top priority for our office, and we appreciate the efforts of our law enforcement partners who were instrumental in carrying out this investigation.”
Throughout the course of the investigation, authorities seized 17 kilograms of meth, 4 kilograms of cocaine, 249 grams of crack cocaine, more than 1 kilogram of heroin, more than 200 prescription pills, numerous firearms and more than $107,000 in assets.
DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Justin King said the defendants charged following this operation plagued communities and should be held accountable for instilling violent tendencies along with trafficking dangerous drugs.
Not only does he hope the 19 defendants are held accountable, but he hopes the operations will shed light and warn other criminals that the Eastern District of Arkansas will work hard to combat these types of crimes.
“These indictments and arrests should serve as a warning and send a clear message — we will relentlessly pursue these violent criminals and drug traffickers plaguing our communities and bring them to justice,” King said. “These individuals were responsible for infesting our communities with more than drugs — they threatened our citizens with guns and violence. The DEA stands here today with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, confident that we have dismantled this violent drug trafficking organization and have made the streets in these communities safer.”
Regarding the distribution of dangerous drugs via mail, U.S. Postal Inspection Service representatives said the operation makes everyday work safer for postal employees.
“The US. Postal Inspection Service works tirelessly to stop drug trafficking organizations from using the U.S. Mail to transport drugs into our communities,” U.S. Postal Inspector Mona Hernandez said. “Dismantling this organization helps us protect our employees and our customers from the violence related to drug trafficking and is just one example of the great work we can accomplish when we combine forces with our federal, state and local partners.”
Operation Mad Hatter was a joint investigation conducted by the DEA Little Rock District Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Pine Bluff Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Community Corrections, Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, Benton Police Department, Little Rock Police Department and the Arkansas National Guard Counterdrug Program.