INDIANAPOLIS - A citywide drug bust Thursday was the culmination of a two-year investigation into a "major drug-trafficking organization," according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Dubbed "Operation Five Dollar Footlong," the investigation stemmed from the 2011 bust of a tractor trailer and warehouse that resulted in the seizure of five tons of marijuana and more than $4.3 million in drug proceeds. The investigation was so-named because the trailer containing suspected drug proceeds was also carrying a large quantity of sandwich wrappers.
The bust put investigators on the trail of an organization responsible for transporting large quantities of drugs, in particular marijuana, from Mexico to Indianapolis and throughout the Midwest.
On Thursday, a joint taskforce of local and federal officers executed 17 search warrants, most of which targeted property on the west side of Indianapolis. As a result of the search, 21 individuals were charged -- 10 federally, and 11 in state court.
In addition, police seized 100 lbs. of marijuana, more than 1.5 lbs. of methamphetamine, two dozen vehicles believed to be used in drug trafficking and $80-$100,000 in suspected drug proceeds.
"Today marks the dismantling of a significant drug-trafficking organization operating in and around Indianapolis," said U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett. "This is a safer community this afternoon than it was at 5:59 a.m. this morning."
Over the course of the two-year investigation, nearly $5 million worth of suspected drug proceeds has been seized, along with more than 15,000 lbs. of marijuana -- at an approximate street value of $30 million, according to prosecutors.
"This is the face of organized crime today," said U.S. Attorny Josh Minkler, "a large group that is well-financed, heavily armed, and violent."
A fatal police-action shooting Friday morning was revealed to have been linked to one of the search warrants served. Rick Frank, of the Metro Drug Task Force, confirmed that a Carmel police officer exchanged fire with a suspect, Jose Guerrero, 36, at a residence on the 5900 block of Beachview Drive.
Guerrero is believed to have been a "distributor in the organization," according to Frank.
"Drugs and drug money were found in that house today," he said.
"This is a good day," said Rick Lorah, IMPD's deputy chief for investigations. "We're very fortunate that two officers go home today, and they go home safely."
Hogsett said defendants arrested Friday on federal charges were expected to have an initial hearing before a magistrate that afternoon. If convicted, they could face 10 years to life in prison on the count of conspiracy with the intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana.
Defendants arrested on state charges face a variety of charges related to their roles in the organization.