Major drug shutdown initiative announced in southern W.Va.

A major drug shutdown initiative was announced in southern West Virginia to fight an alleged drug-running operation that spans nearly the entire continental U.S.
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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WV MetroNews) -- An alleged drug-running operation spanning nearly the entire length of the continental United States was shut down Wednesday when law enforcement from multiple agencies conducted a sting operation dubbed “Operation Shutdown Corner.”

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced the arrests of 17 suspects and the seizure of what he described as large quantities of controlled substances, along with illegally possessed firearms and cash.

“From San Diego to West Virginia, today’s operation shut down a major drug trafficking organization. Over 200 law enforcement agents from more than five states were involved in this operation,” Stuart said. “As a result of these indictments and arrests, West Virginia communities and West Virginia families are safer today than they were yesterday. We continue with a sense of urgency to take down and remove those who cause only harm and despair in the interests of greed.”

According to Stuart, a long-term investigation revealed that a stream of packages containing methamphetamine and heroin were being shipped from San Diego, California to Raleigh County and the surrounding area, using common carriers, such as the U.S. Postal Service and UPS.

During Wednesday’s press conference at the Robert C. Bryd United States Court House and Federal Building in Beckley, Stuart said he personally was disturbed by the fact that seven children were living in one of the houses in Raleigh County allegedly being used to store a portion of the drugs arriving from California.

“The conditions these children were living in, they break your heart, and it raises the question: if children are raised in this type of environment, lack of role models, total filth, absolute squalor, how is it that these children are going to rise up to be citizens who are involved in our community, who can be change agents, who can be champions in our community? It was shocking, the conditions these kids were living in,” he said.

The investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and included the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Marshals Service, the Beckley/Raleigh County Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, which is made up of law enforcement officers from the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office, the Beckley Police Department, West Virginia State Police, the Central West Virginia Drug Task Force and the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force.

In addition to Raleigh County, arrests were made in Fayette and Mercer Counties. One suspect was arrested in San Diego. The identities of the suspects, all of whom are in federal custody, were not disclosed.

Stuart said the investigation is ongoing and could result in additional federal and state charges in the future.