Columbus Area Drug Trafficking Organization Disrupted
Seizure consisted of over 114 pounds of methamphetamine, along with heroin, fentanyl, marijuana, and 115 firearms
Indianapolis (STL.News) Acting U.S. Attorney John E. Childress announced today that an extensive drug trafficking organization that was responsible for selling large quantities of illegal drugs in the Columbus area has been dismantled. Thirty-six individuals were indicted by a grand jury on various federal charges, including possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and felon in possession of a firearm. Twenty-four have already been convicted and sentenced to federal prison.
“The large drug trafficking organizations not only saturate our communities with illegal drugs, they bring gun violence and contribute to the addiction problems facing the Hoosier state and nation,” said Childress. “Federal law enforcement will continue to work with state and local law enforcement to eliminate these organizations and assure the citizens who live in the Southern District of Indiana that we are committed and determined to keep the communities where they live safe.”
Bartholomew County Chief Deputy Prosecutor, Gregory E. Long said, “We have a good working relationship with our federal partners, and I look forward to continuing to work together as a team to help stop the flow of illegal drugs from entering our community.”
In 2018, federal agents and officers assigned to the Bartholomew County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET) initiated an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation called Operation Columbus Day.
During the investigation, agents and officers identified members of a Mexican based drug trafficking organization who were sending large quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, and marijuana to the Columbus, and Seymour, Indiana area. What followed was a multi-year investigation that targeted the Chavez family. The Chavez family lived and operated out of the Columbus area, where multiple family members and their close associates used a variety of methods to traffic drugs (primarily, methamphetamine). Throughout the investigation, agents and officers intercepted multiple parcels, conducted numerous controlled purchases, and conducted approximately 15 search warrants in the Bartholomew County area.
Operation Columbus Day netted approximately 114 pounds of methamphetamine, 4 pounds of heroin/fentanyl and 28 pounds of marijuana. In addition to drug seizures, approximately $224,124 in U.S. currency was seized as drug proceeds. Agents and officers also recovered approximately 115 firearms.
Following the investigation, 36 individuals were indicted federally through the United States Attorney’s Office and 23 additional individuals were prosecuted through the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s Office on charges ranging from possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine to felon in possession of a firearm. Of the 36 individuals indicted, 25 have been convicted, and sentences ranged from 12 months to 270 months in federal prison.
The below individuals are just five of the 24 defendants thus far that have been prosecuted and sentenced for federal firearm, drug, and/or immigration charges.
Jorge Chavez – sentenced to 270 months
Ivan Chavez-Lozoya – sentenced to 69 months
Jacklyn Munoz – sentenced to 108 months
Bryan Miranda-Alvidrez – sentenced to 120 months
Fernando Lopez-Mendez – sentenced to 120 months (and subject to deportation)
This investigation was a collaborative effort between the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, United States Postal Inspection Service, Bartholomew County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET), Seymour Police Department, U.S. Marshal Service, and Homeland Security Investigations.
DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Michael Gannon said, “Operation Columbus Day was a huge success for the fine citizens of Bartholomew County and fellow Hoosiers. Based on the exceptional work conducted by DEA and our partner’s approximately 60 individuals were arrested. In addition, over 100 pounds of methamphetamine and over 100 firearms were seized. This investigation was a perfect example of law enforcement collaborating at the highest levels. Any time we can remove large amounts of debilitating drugs such as methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, and illegally possessed firearms from the streets, it is a big win. DEA remains committed to working hand in hand with the Bartholomew County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team to keep our communities safe.”
“Drugs and firearms violence unfortunately go hand in hand,” stated Roland H. Herndon, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Columbus Field Division. “ATF is committed to making our communities safer for everyone, and the conviction of those involved in this violent drug trafficking scheme is a step toward that goal. My thanks go out to all of our local, state, and federal partners in this investigation for their tireless work and commitment.”
Bryan Musgrove, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Detroit Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service stated, “This investigation is another example of a successful crack down on those seeking to abuse the Postal Service by shipping drugs and illegal proceeds through the U.S. Mail. Preventing illegal drugs from entering the U.S. Mail system is one of the highest priorities for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. As this case illustrates, we utilize enhanced investigative techniques and leverage strategic partnerships with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to prevent these dangerous drugs from harming our communities.”
“Bartholomew County’s Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team is a well-coordinated initiative that is providing an entirely different approach and attack on dealing with drugs,” said Bartholomew County Sheriff Matthew A. Myers. “JNET was taken to the “next level” when a Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputy was assigned to the DEA Task Force. “Our greatest focus and number one priority is on drug eradication, particularly targeting people who provide illegal narcotics to our residents. Having local, state and federal agencies working together, sends a huge message,” added Sheriff Myers.
“Eliminating dangerous drugs from Columbus and holding those persons responsible who transport and distribute narcotics into our community is one of law enforcements most critical roles,” said Columbus Police Chief Michael Richardson. “These arrests spotlight the hard work that was done by our JNET detectives in collaboration with a number of law enforcement agencies. This investigation should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who is considering selling drugs in Columbus and Bartholomew County. I am extremely proud of every officer involved in this lengthy investigation and would like to commend them for their exceptional work.”
According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys M. Kendra Klump and Lawrence Hilton, who prosecuted this case for the government, this case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
In November of 2020, Acting United States Attorney John E. Childress renewed a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the Office’s enduring commitment to investigating and prosecuting organizations that supply and distribute methamphetamine and or heroin in the district. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan Section 3.1.