BETHANY — An ounce of methamphetamine is enough to get at least 60 heavy users high.
The 15 pounds seized Wednesday by officers with central Oklahoma law enforcement agencies represents thousands of doses of a product that is heavily addictive and has destroyed countless lives in the state, said Darrell Weaver, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.
More than a dozen people were arrested in a joint investigation by 11 agencies. Weaver said the distribution ring dismantled Wednesday has ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel, arguably the most powerful of the notorious Mexican drug cartels.
Authorities said the group moved as much as 25 pounds of meth from Mexico to Oklahoma City weekly.
“I have to wonder how many lives were saved,” Weaver said. “Meth really eats a person from the inside out. It almost robs the soul.”
Law officers raided homes Wednesday, serving search and arrest warrants as part of the eight-month investigation.
More than a dozen teams of law officers started looking for 21 people at more than 10 locations in the Oklahoma City area beginning about 7 a.m., said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the state narcotics bureau.
Three arrests were made at 3312 NW 25, the first house raided by officers. A tall man in an orange jacket who was handcuffed and detained near the curb was asked by a reporter, “Are you selling drugs here?”
The man answered with an obscenity.
A law officer quickly escorted the man to a patrol car.
Officers used a battering ram after no one answered the door at a detached garage apartment at 2409 N Drexel Ave. Two people were arrested inside.
Woodward said 13 people were arrested by noon. More arrests are possible. Raids also were conducted Wednesday in Norman, Moore and Ponca City.
Major source of drugs
Weaver said Mexican drug cartels have been a major source of meth and other drugs in the state since the mid-1990s. Local meth cooks get lots of attention from law enforcement because of the fires, explosions and chemical contamination that are the by-products of their craft.
“The domestic production has collateral effects that are worse than the quantity,” Weaver said. “These one-pot methods are not producing these large quantities of meth. I would suspect the vast majority of methamphetamine is coming out of Mexico.”
Cartels use a variety of methods to move their product across the border. Much of it is hidden in vehicles crossing the border each day. The cartels expect to lose up to 10 to 15 percent of their product to seizures by law enforcement.
“The methods they use to smuggle these drugs into Oklahoma are really only limited by your imagination,” Weaver said. “They saturate so many vehicles that eventually it is going to find its way across.”
Low-level smugglers, often called mules, move most of the drugs. They often are paid a few thousand dollars per shipment and assume nearly all of the risk associated with moving the drugs.
Busting a ring that was distributing such large amounts of meth is particularly satisfying for law enforcement, Weaver said.
“This is an organization that was distributing to Oklahomans,” he said. “That to me is very relevant. They weren't moving this stuff through Oklahoma to Chicago or Detroit. This was going into our neighborhoods.”