Authorities arrested 35 people in a massive three-state investigation that found a cache of weapons and illegal drugs, including enough of the deadly opioid fentanyl to kill 14 million people.
Investigators who assisted with & # 39; Operation Cookout & # 39 ;, said they had made the arrests on Thursday and were still looking for four suspects.
The operation seized 24 firearms, 66 pounds each of fentanyl and heroin, 11 pounds of cocaine and more than $ 700,000 in cash during the three-day & # 39; disposal & # 39 ;, according to a statement from the federal authorities.
"This massive ban on drugs, including enough fentanyl to kill more than 14 million people, is positive evidence of the strength and power of federal, state, and local law enforcement cooperation," said G. Zachary Terwilliger, US lawyer for the Eastern District of Virginia
Terwilliger (center) stands with local, provincial, and federal authorities that helped with & # 39; Operation Cookout & # 39 ;. More than 120 law enforcement officers from 30 law enforcement agencies in Virginia, North Carolina and Texas were involved in the arrest of 35 suspects
"This massive ban on drugs, including enough fentanyl to kill more than 14 million people, is positive evidence of the strength and power of federal, state, and local law enforcement cooperation," said G. Zachary Terwilliger, US lawyer for the Eastern District of Virginia.
More than 120 law enforcement officers from 30 law enforcement agencies in Virginia, North Carolina and Texas were involved in the arrest of 35 suspects. According to a 106-page indictment, at least four are still being confronted with indictments.
The charge alleges that the suspects were part of a conspiracy to distribute and distribute large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and cocaine base in the metropolitan Hampton Roads region of Southeast Virginia.
The large-scale drug trafficking operation dates from March 2016, say federal prosecutors.
The & # 39; conspirators & # 39; participated in multiple criminal acts, including the distribution of armed drugs. They are accused of working as suppliers, packers, transporters, financiers, distributors and & # 39; facilitators & # 39; in the drug trade.
Prosecutors say that the suspects and other & # 39; undiscovered co-conspirators & # 39; were dependent on drug suppliers in Mexico, California, and New York, and transported heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and cocaine to Virginia.
The drug traffickers used hidden traps in private vehicles, couriers and trailers, trucks and recreational vehicles.
The drugs would end up in different locations, including the homes and parking lots of companies in Newport News, Hampton, Suffolk, Carrolton, Yorktown, Lawrenceville, South Hill, and Richmond.
At least 94 & # 39; telecommunications equipment & # 39; including prepaid cell phones were used by suspects in their daily activities. Some would have changed their devices regularly to thwart the authorities.
Suspects also communicated via Facebook and encrypted communication apps such as FaceTime and WhatsApp.
The specific charges include conspiracy to spread and possess with the intention of spreading cocaine, heroin, cocaine base and fentanyl; conspiracy to launder money; criminal holding a firearm; maintaining an area related to medication; use of a communication facility to promote drug trafficking; international travel for racketeering companies; and re-enter illegally by a previously deported or removed alien.
& # 39; This operation has saved lives in the Eastern District and elsewhere through the seizure of tens of kilos of illegal drugs. & # 39; said Terwilliger. & # 39; Every day we can do that makes a lot of sense and impact. An incredible thank you to our dedicated partners for law enforcement and prosecutors. & # 39;
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