LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Seventeen people are under federal indictment in connection with a large drug trafficking operation that was selling meth in Indiana and Kentucky.
The United States Attorneys for Indiana and Kentucky announced the indictments during a joint news conference Friday morning in New Albany.
"This is a big organization and it is very consequential that they have been taken off the streets," Josh Minkler, US Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, said.
A large amount of methamphetamine, 13.5 pounds, and 21 illegal firearms were confiscated in Thursday's bust.
"Think about what it would be like to attempt to raise a family in a neighborhood full of drugs and guns," Russell Coleman, US Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, said.
Seven suspects have been charged with conspiracy to distribute meth in the Southern District of Indiana including Clifton Jones, 31, Gregory Churchill, 33, Stanley Duke Jr., 41, Billy Dale Sears, 44, Harry Edelen, 44, Roger Carroll Jr.,47 and Chad Albertson, 40. Duke also faces an additional charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
"Think what it would be like as a street officer to respond to a call for assistance facing that [assault rifles] on a daily basis," Coleman said.
The indictment alleges that Billy Dale Sears was the ringleader of the organization that conspired to distribute the large amounts of meth. Sears would allegedly get the meth from Clifton Jone and Gregory Churchill who both lived in Louisville. Sears would then distribute the men to dealers in New Albany, Jeffersonville, Salem and Louisville for redistribution, investigators said.
The organization allegedly sold the meth on a "front basis," providing large amounts of drugs to other dealers. Investigators said the suspects used coded language and text messages to talk about the trafficking operation
Clifton Jones faces additional charges in the Western District of Kentucky. Those also facing charges in Kentucky are Dontay Rice, Eric Estey, Dandre Taylor, Odell Smith, William Freeman, James Hall, Chad Heiser, Clarence Rice Jr., Alex Bowles and Joseph Willis.
Minkler said the indictments, which were returned Dec. 5 by a grand jury and unsealed today, a came after a year-long operation that was led by the FBI.
"We have a long way to go to be able to make our streets even safer," said Amy Hess, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Louisville field office.
One man, Chad Jeremy Heiser, was not arrested by the FBI. Officials said they will continue to search for him.