SHAWNEE — In one of the state's largest rural drug busts, law enforcement officers arrested 33 people Wednesday and broke up a narcotics ring that imported methamphetamine by the pound from a Mexican drug cartel, authorities said.
Two of those arrested, Shawnee residents Linda Ellis, 48, and Steve Faulkner, 53, brought in as much as 6 pounds of methamphetamine a week, Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon. Depending on how the drug is cut, it could generate about $10,000 per pound.
About 125 officers from various agencies began serving arrest warrants Wednesday morning for complaints of drug distribution and conspiracy to traffic drugs. About 4 pounds of methamphetamine and $30,000 cash were seized. Most of the warrants were for people in Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties. Their names were not released Wednesday.
Local residents watched as officers took people into custody.
“It was an exciting morning,” Bob Fincher said outside his flower shop in Shawnee. Across the street, burly officers pulled people out of a house, handcuffed them and placed them on the ground in the front yard.
“We've seen a lot of activity at that house with a lot of people coming and going. I'm glad something was done,” Fincher said.
Smothermon said the undercover investigation was sparked by a tip to police and a traffic stop about five months ago. It involved wire taps on telephones and covert surveillance of several of the suspects.
Darrell Weaver, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control director, said that in his 25 years with the bureau, the operation was the largest sting of its kind conducted in a rural area. He said the drug distribution ring was dismantled.
Authorities constructed a family treelike diagram of suspects' photographs, showing their relationship to one another.
Smothermon said Ellis would pick up the drugs about once a week from a supplier in Oklahoma City. The methamphetamine came from a Mexican drug cartel, although authorities declined to name the cartel or identify two men arrested Wednesday in Oklahoma City with ties to the crime organization.
Ellis was arrested on Interstate 40 on her way to Oklahoma City. Faulkner, her boyfriend, was taken into custody in Duncan, Smothermon said.
No one resisted arrest, and no injuries were reported.