Multi-agency task force dismantles massive drug trafficking operation on Indy’s west side

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Early Thursday morning, federal agents executed 17 federal and state search warrants in Indianapolis as part of “Operation Five Dollar Footlong,” most of which targeted people and property on the near-west side of the city.

A total of 21 defendants have been charged in federal and state court for their alleged roles in the drug trafficking organization, 16 of whom were brought into custody today. That includes eight federal defendants and eight state defendants.

One suspect, Jose Guerrero, 36, as shot and killed inside a west side apartment after police say he aimed a weapon at officers and ignored their commands to lower it. He died at the scene.

“We’ve talked to him in passing,” said Leota Corbin, a woman who lives in the Westlake apartments above Guerrero.

“We had two veteran narcotics detectives who did what they needed to do when they were confronted,” said Carmel Police Department Chief Tim Green.

Authorities claim the suspects were running a drug trafficking organization that has been importing thousands of pounds of marijuana into Indianapolis from Mexico.

The arrests are part of “Operation Five Dollar Footlong.” The name was given to the multi-year investigation after members of the DEA task force and the Metro Drug Task Force began an investigation into marijuana trafficking in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Based on information received by the agencies, it was believed that illegal activities were being coordinated out of a Mexican grocery store on the west side of Indianapolis.

In October 2011, charges were filed against multiple individuals for this drug activity. A search of a tractor-trailer and a warehouse resulted in the seizure of five tons of marijuana and more than $4.3 million in drug proceeds. The tractor-trailer in which the drug proceeds were found was carrying a large quantity of sandwich wrappers when it was stopped by law enforcement.

In the two years that followed, agents continued investigating the activities of those involved in the marijuana trafficking organization. Utilizing extensive phone and in-person surveillance, agents uncovered an extensive network of drug activity in the Indianapolis area. Allegations unsealed today indicate that Mexican suppliers were regularly shipping thousands of pounds of marijuana into Indianapolis. Once sold, the drug proceeds would be hidden in vehicles and transported to the Mexican border.

“This is the face organized crime today, a large group that is well-financed, that is heavily armed, and that is violent,” said First U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler.

Thursday morning’s search warrants preliminarily netted about 100 pounds of marijuana,
1.5 pounds of meth, weapons, including seven firearms, 26 vehicles,
and upwards of $100,000 in suspected drug proceeds.

“As this morning reaffirmed, the people who make up our law enforcement community go out every day, put their lives on the line to make this a better place to live, a better place to work, and a safer place to raise your family,” said Joe Hogsett, U.S. Attorney.

He continued. “In two years, this federal operation has resulted in the seizure of more than 15,000 pounds of marijuana and nearly $5 million in suspected drug proceeds.”

“There were kids there too. They had little kids living there so it’s crazy. You never know,” said Corbin.

The death investigation will be conducted by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Critical Incident Response Team.

In addition, documents unsealed today indicate that over the last two years, agents have seized an additional two tons of marijuana in Indianapolis as part of this ongoing investigation.

Twenty-five defendants have now been federally charged as part of Operation Five Dollar Footlong. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Conour, the defendants arrested today on federal charges are scheduled to have initial appearances before a Magistrate Judge in Indianapolis Thursday afternoon. If convicted, those defendants face ten years to life imprisonment on the count of conspiracy with the intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. Defendants arrested on state charges face a variety of charges related to their roles in the organization.

These arrests are the result of a collaborative investigation involving the DEA and the Indianapolis Metro Drug Task Force, along with the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

State and local partners included the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, the Hamilton County Drug Task Force, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and a number of other local law enforcement agencies.

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