A two-year investigation brought down a drug kingpin from California — and it all began right here in Northwest Arkansas.
Federal and local law enforcement agencies gathered at the Rogers Police Department today to deliver big news.
Since March, 2015, local law enforcement has been cooperating with the DEA and FBI to take down gang leader, Larry Navarete.
It begins with a seven-ounce crystal meth drug bust at a home in NWA.
That seizure triggered a federal investigation which took down Navarete, a known member of the criminal gang “MS-13.”
Navarete has been incarcerated in a California prison since 2008 on separate charges.
But the investigation concluded that Navarete had been directing shipments of the highly-addictive drug from his prison cell to parts of Arkansas.
Since then, 25 pounds of meth have been seized and 18 people in the Western District of Arkansas have been indicted and sentenced to a total of more than 91 years of imprisonment.
Kenneth Elser, the U.S. Attorney in charge of the case, says it’s not unusual for major busts like these to start from the help of local police departments.
“Almost all of our cases begin with small drug busts,” Elser said. “That’s why the cooperation between the locals and the federal authorities here is so important because in most instances, you get the information you need by starting with the lower level people and working your way up and most of the time that’s going to lead outside the state of Arkansas to California or Texas.”
Elser says meth is the number one drug they target and prosecute in Arkansas.
The investigation also led to the arrest of more than 40 criminals in California, and authorities are still working the case.