Federal officials are detaining six people in Tulsa in conjunction with a multi-agency investigation targeting a “major” Mexican-based heroin smuggling organization.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, officials made the six arrests Wednesday while executing six state search warrants. In addition to the arrests, the investigation resulted in the seizure of three firearms, two vehicles, 13 ounces of black tar heroin and more than $106,505 “in suspected drug proceeds.”
“This five-year-plus investigation has already been responsible for removing illegal drugs from our communities and prosecuting some of the criminals involved,” Katrina Berger, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Dallas, said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and many other law enforcement partners in the ongoing war against illegal drugs and drug traffickers.”
HSI has been leading the investigation into the Mexico-based drug-smuggling organization in conjunction with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO). Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, Tulsa Police Department, the FBI, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Drug Enforcement Administration, and ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also assisted with the operation.
The arrests were made as part of an investigation into the proliferation of black tar heroin in the Tulsa area. Prior to Wednesday’s bust, the investigation, known as Operation Train Tracks, had yelled 15 federal and 25 state criminal arrests, 15 federal indictments, and 14 convictions, as well as the seizures of over 19 kilos of heroin and $170,000 in U.S. currency.
The arrests come as lawmakers and government officials look to confront an ever-growing heroin and opioid epidemic in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 2007 to 2013 use of heroin skyrocketed 150 percent and from 2002 to 2013 deaths from the drug nearly quadrupled.
In recent years, Mexican traffickers have been the largest smugglers of heroin into the U.S. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration “Heroin in the United States is largely controlled by Mexican traffickers.”
“The increased role of Mexican traffickers is affecting heroin trafficking patterns. More heroin is entering the United States through the Southwest Border; consequently, the western states’ roles as heroin transit areas are increasingly significant,” the DEA reports in its 2016 updated National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary.