Nearly 30 arrested in massive Central Texas drug operation

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(KWTX) A total of 28 people were in custody Thursday afternoon as the result of a major enforcement operation focused on “disrupting and dismantling” drug distribution rings in the Waco and Killeen areas, authorities announced Thursday afternoon.

Authorities arrested 22 people Thursday. Six others were already in custody. (Law enforcement photo)

“It's organizations like what we took off the street today that are in charge of distributing the poison in our neighborhoods, and in this case two significant trafficking organizations have been removed from our communities making Central Texas a much safer place,” said Will Glaspy, special agent in charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Houston Division.

Federal, state and local authorities arrested 22 people Thursday.

Six others were already in custody.

"They're not your 'garden variety' criminal," said Parnell McNamara, Sheriff of McLennan County. "These are hard-core drug dealers."

The 28 were named in two federal grand jury indictments that were unsealed Thursday in Waco.

"This is not some far-flung criminal organization, these are folks who were plying their trade in Central Texas," said Ryan Holt, Police Chief for the City of Waco.

Authorities also seized about $16,000 in cash, more than 5 pounds of methamphetamine, and 22 firearms in the investigation.

"These were people that were making large amounts of money selling large amounts of drugs allegedly, drugs that cause enormous physical and psychological damage to vulnerable people,” said John Bash, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas.

“They are preying on the vulnerable for money, and they are destroying people's lives when they sell things like meth to fellow citizens.”

Nine of the suspects are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs including cocaine, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, authorities said in a press release.

The nine are all members of the Gangsters Disciples and are accused of distributing drugs in Killeen and the surrounding area since October 2015.

"The Gangster Disciples are a national level threat which engages in violence and drug trafficking activities," said John Scata, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, San Antonio Division.

The nine were identified Thursday as Gabriel Luna, 30, of Katy; Samuel Earl Smith, 44, of Killeen; Jomar Kenyatta Bush, 44, of Killeen; Jeffrey Ellis, 33, of Killeen; Donovan Lafurd Ray Jacobs, 25, of Killeen; Joshua Deanthony Bailey, 29, of Killeen; Derrick L. Jacques, who’s also known as “Flexx,”, 41, of Killeen, Terrell Jefferson, 32, of Killeen, and Leonta Odell Gladden, 30 of Killeen.

Authorities identified Jacques as the group’s leader.

Gladden was already in custody.

Luna, Smith, Bush, Ellis and Jacobs are accused of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine; Luna, Smith, Jacobs and Bailey are accused of conspiring to distribute cocaine, and Jacques, Jefferson, and Gladden are accused of conspiring to distribute crack cocaine, authorities said in a press release Thursday afternoon.

Authorities said the group is headquartered in the Midwest in Chicago, and setup shop in Killeen to 'further their reign.'

"We put a halt to it," said Charles Kimble, Killeen Police Chief. "We put a halt to their drug dealing, we put a halt to their trafficking, we put a halt to all the associated crimes that come with that."

Nineteen other suspects are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

The 19 were identified Thursday as Daniel Louis Lopez, 38, of Waco; Ruben Ceja-Sanchez, 31, of Dallas; Gary Keith Mahan, Jr., 37, of McGregor; Michael Trinidad Carbajal, 38, of Waco; Amy Michelle Tedder, 32, of Waco; Joe Victor Monzon, 35, of Waco; Ruben Arnold Mondragon, 32, of Waco; Patricia Ann Navarro-Eaton, 46, of Waco; Michael Martinez, 47, of Waco; Cory Allen Kussmaul, 28, of Waco; Darnell O’Shea McCoy, 35, of Waco; Charlotte Nicole O’Neal, 33, of Waco; Augustin Ariel Camacho, 36, of Waco; Daniel Alan Tummins, 35, of Waco; Francisco Farias III, 55, of Waco; Magan Danielle Shuemake, 29, of Waco; Polly Estes, 42, of Waco; Stephanie Nicole Davis, 31, of Midlothian, and Terry Allen Cartwright, 36 of Waco.

Lopez, Tedder, Mondragon, Kussmaul and Cartwright were already in custody.

The rest were arrested Thursday.

They're accused of distributing large amounts of methamphetamine in the Waco area and throughout Central Texas.

Meth is the most produced synthetic drug in Mexico, and the production and distribution are dominated by Mexican Cartels, according to DEA officials who also said it's the most trafficked drug in Texas.

"You can't hardly pick up a paper these days without talking about the opioid epidemic, what most people don't realize is if we weren't talking about opioids across the country, we'd be talking about the United States' appetite for methamphetamine," said Glaspy.

In McLennan County, the Sheriff says about 90 percent of their arrests are drug-related, and most involve meth.

"People addicted to meth...they'll do anything to get it, they'll sell their soul," said McNamara.

While they have a large number of meth-related arrests, McNamara said the suspects involved in this operation are more "hard-core."

"They're not your 'garden variety' criminal," said McNamara. "These are dangerous drug dealers, these are very despicable, lowlife, scum bags."

Because of the heightened risk, the Sheriff said they tried to catch these suspects by surprise and put added safeguards in place.

"You know they're often armed and they can be hopped up on their dope at the same time - it's a dangerous situation, and so we take extra precaution in what we wear, the guns that we take," said McNamara.

McNamara said the agencies involved have been working together on this operation for years, and although it won't solve the problem entirely, it will make an impact.

"Every time we get one of these jerks off the street, we make this community a little bit safer, and that's our goal," said McNamara.

All of the suspects will remain in custody at the Jack Harwell Detention Center pending detention hearings before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Manske in Waco next week.

Authorities said many of them are facing maximum sentences of life in prison.

"What that indicates is that the amount of drugs involved were extraordinarily large," said Bash. "This is I think is something that has very little to do with some of the other debates about drugs - this is bad conduct that was alleged."

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Marshals Service, the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office and the Waco and Killeen police departments were involved in the operation.

"These two cases are an excellent example of how teamwork and the joint effort that all these agencies are putting together can have a very effective local impact for the citizens of Central Texas," said Steven Schwartz, Captain, Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division.

(Law enforcement photo)