Officers conduct drug bust at Carthage

Thursday, February 14, 2002

CARTHAGE, Mo. -- Scores of law officers swarmed this southwestern Missouri town early Wednesday, raiding homes and arresting at least 46 people in a massive drug and weapons bust dubbed "Operation Cocaine Cowboys."

The sweep by more than 150 federal agents and state, county and city officers came after an investigation that began in November 1999, said Chris Whitley, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Todd Graves.

"The investigation is not over," Whitley said. "I wouldn't call this a culmination. It has finally reached a very public and visible stage."

The investigation has resulted in federal drugs and weapons charges for 36 people, Whitley said. Of those, 28 were arrested Wednesday.

Another 26 people face state charges of possessing drugs with intent to distribute. The Jasper County sheriff's office said 18 were arrested Wednesday.

Helicopters flew overhead before dawn as agents with the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Drug Enforcement Agency -- along with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and police from Carthage and Joplin -- probed the town of about 11,000 people 10 miles northeast of Joplin.

The 27-month investigation focused on the distribution of drugs from California, Texas and Guatemala to Jasper, Greene, Christian, Lawrence and Webster counties, authorities said.

100 weapons found

The drugs included cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, Whitley said. Authorities also recovered more than 100 weapons linked to one suspect, he said.

The federal charges were sealed in five indictments returned by a Springfield grand jury Jan. 24 and in four criminal complaints filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court there. All were made public Wednesday.

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