Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Operation ‘Fertile Ground’ Takes Down Major Drug Trafficking Network

Casa Grande, AZ – Over the last seven months Casa Grande and Coolidge have been the scene of the largest anti-drug operation in the recent history of Pinal County, as 24 suspects were indicted in what became operation “Fertile Ground”.

Police seized large quantities of PCP, methamphetamine, crack and powder cocaine, all very dangerous illegal drugs.

“The Pinal County Attorney’s Office and local police cannot go after the drug-lords of Mexico, but we can take a significant bite out of the local street-level networks which damage our communities and neighborhoods,” said James P. Walsh, Pinal County Attorney.

The operation was a joint effort of the Casa Grande Police Department, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Mobile Enforcement Unit (DEA-MET) and the Pinal County Attorney’s Office.

The Casa Grande Police Department led the effort to drive drug traffickers from the city.

“The fight against drugs is a never ending proposition, one that requires ever changing tactics and approaches. We are very pleased with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration and their Mobile Enforcement Team to be willing to come into our Community to work with us, and with our neighboring Law Enforcement Agency Partners to continue to address these problems,” Casa Grande Police Chief Robert Huddleston said. “We have, with their help, made a dent in a huge problem. We and our local partners look forward to a continued productive relationship with DEA so that we may keep the heat on those involved in illegal drug trafficking, and serve to keep our communities safe and secure.”

The Casa Grande PD was supported by the DEA-MET. The DEA-MET groups were formed in 1995 as a way of responding to state and local law enforcement's concerns about the spread of drug trafficking and the associated violence. More than two dozen DEA MET teams operating throughout the United States are tasked with identifying and dismantling violent drug trafficking groups that have gained a foothold in urban and rural areas.

“This investigation illustrates the value of combining the strengths, resources and skills of federal, state and local agencies to fight these drug trafficking networks,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Elizabeth W. Kempshall. “DEA will use all the resources at our disposal to bring down these violent drug dealers who think they can peddle these poisons in our communities without facing justice.”

For about seven months, this task force targeted the sales, distribution and violence associated with PCP and other dangerous drugs in Casa Grande, Coolidge and surrounding communities. During this same period the task force conducted over 100 enforcement operations. Officers of these different agencies worked together to arrest and indict more than 24 accused drug dealers and suppliers.

Two of the indicted defendants traveled to south Phoenix and purchased large quantities of liquid PCP and then distributed this PCP at street-level in the form of “sherm-sticks” (a standard cigarette dipped in PCP). The individual “sherm-sticks” were sold in Casa Grande and Coolidge areas for approximately $10.00 to $15.00 each.

The operation attacked more than a dozen different locations in Casa Grande. A smaller number of locations were involved in Coolidge. The Special Weapons and Tactics team led by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office supported the effort.

"We worked together with the CGPD, DEA and our County Attorney's Office on this operation. This combined effort should send a clear message to criminals that we will aggressively pursue them to achieve justice. We will continue to work with other law enforcement to keep our families safe," Sheriff Paul Babeu said.

Cooperation of different law enforcement agencies played a key role to the success of this operation.

“All the locations are in residential communities that were negatively impacted by brazen drug dealing,” said Kelly Neal, Drug Unit Bureau Chief. “These defendants conducted their activities in shopping malls, gas stations and other public areas. We need to keep our public spaces safe for our community.”

“I call the public to assist us now and in the future,” Walsh said. “We need everyone’s help to protect our communities from predatory drug dealers.”