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Dozens arrested in south central Oklahoma on meth, other drug charges

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A 10-month investigation into methamphetamine trafficking in south central Oklahoma and northern Texas led to the arrest of 53 people Tuesday on a variety of drug charges by federal, state and local authorities.

The investigation, dubbed Operation 700 Ranch Round-Up, began in May when authorities learned that meth was being supplied in Oklahoma by traffickers in northern Texas, according to Gary Olenkiewicz, head of Drug Enforcement Administration's Dallas office.

Officers in both states conducted surveillance, made undercover drug purchases, executed search and arrest warrants and conducted other operations to gather evidence needed for indictment and prosecution of the defendants, officials said.

"The federal targets represent the leaders of an organization planted here in southern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas by a violent street gang in Chicago known as Satan's Disciples," said U.S Attorney Sheldon Sperling of the Eastern District of Oklahoma in Muskogee.

"After a year of intense, cooperative, undercover activity, this operation stands as an example of what can be accomplished when agents at all levels of government work together for the good of their communities," Sperling said.

A total of 102 defendants were indicted as a result of the investigation. Twenty defendants named in federal indictments for conspiracy and distribution of methamphetamine will be prosecuted by federal authorities in the two states. The remaining defendants will be prosecuted in state courts in Texas and Oklahoma.

Authorities began arresting suspects early Tuesday in and around Ardmore and Gainesville, Texas. Several were already in custody on charges filed earlier, and some were in various jails on other charges.

The names of the defendants and the charges they face were expected to be released later Tuesday. Agencies involved in the investigation included the Chickasaw Indian Nation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Authorities said the investigation has already had a significant impact on the availability of methamphetamine in the region. Investigators seized more than 15 pounds of meth during the operation, along with "crack" cocaine, marijuana, and numerous firearms.

"Our hope is this will have a lasting positive impact on the quality of life in these areas," Olenkiewicz said.

"Tonight we will be sleeping in a safer county," said Carter County Sheriff Harvey Burkhart.

"Methamphetamine is leaving a path of destruction in communities all across the United States," said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.

Meth "has ruined lives, destroyed families and resulted in the deaths of many, including those in law enforcement," Woodward said.
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