A nearly three-year undercover investigation into an alleged drug ring based in Pine Bluff culminated in federal or state charges being filed against 34 people, and many of them were taken into custody following early morning visits from law enforcement officers.

A nearly three-year undercover investigation into an alleged drug ring based in Pine Bluff culminated in federal or state charges being filed against 34 people, and many of them were taken into custody following early morning visits from law enforcement officers.

At a press conference in Little Rock Thursday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Thyer said a federal grand jury returned nine separate indictments against 24 individuals in connection with a major cocaine distribution network that included not only Pine Bluff but Little Rock, Stuttgart, Humphrey, Altheimer and Dumas.

Another 10 people were charged with delivery of cocaine in state court, and Thyer said a majority of the defendants that were charged had prior criminal convictions involving drug trafficking and violent offenses.

According to a list provided by federal authorities, eight of the 24 people who were indicted were not in custody late Thursday morning, while the number of state defendants who were not in custody was not immediately available.

Thyer said the investigation, which began in 2009, identified two people, Quentin Tidwell, 35, and Keenan Packard, 26, as the heads of the organization that was responsible for distributing three to four kilograms of cocaine and crack cocaine per month in Central and Southeast Arkansas.

Bill Bryant, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA in Arkansas, said an ounce of cocaine would sell for between $1,200 and $1,800, and during the investigation, undercover agents were “buying multiple ounces of cocaine.”

Beginning at about 6 a.m., 100 law enforcement officers from the Pine Bluff Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas State Police, the DEA, U.S. Marshal’s Service and air support from the Arkansas Army National Guard began serving the federal arrest warrants at a variety of addresses in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County. Bryant said while most of the arrests were made in Pine Bluff, there were also suspects taken into custody in Altheimer and Little Rock.

In addition, officers served three search warrants, a large number of weapons were seized at a warehouse in Pine Bluff, and investigators also recovered a small amount of cocaine and marijuana.

In order to free the normal law enforcement radio channels, the officers involved in Thursday’s round-up used a private radio channel and MECA (Metropolitan Emergency Communications Association) assigned dispatchers to handle that radio traffic exclusively.

Thyer said the investigation indicated that the drug trafficking organization had direct ties to several cities in Texas, including Corpus Christi, Brownsville and Dallas.

“This was a major deal for the people of Jefferson County and Pine Bluff,” Sheriff Gerald Robinson said. “”We’ve taken some major drug dealers off the streets.”

Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones said “at the end of the day, this is going to make the city of Pine Bluff safer.”

Later in the press conference, when asked about that statement, she compared drug dealers to roaches.

“It’s like when you kill a roach, another one is going to pop up,” Davis-Jones said.

Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter, who filed state charges against 10 individuals, said the operation was important because it “not only will disrupt the drug traffic, but also have an impact on other crimes.”

Asked why some of the defendants were charged with federal offenses while others were charged in state court, Thyer said when authorities looked at the facts and circumstances, “some of the offenses were more appropriate in one or the other.”

Bryant praised the work of the investigators who worked on the case, saying “they worked day and night because drug dealers don’t work 8 to 5.

“This investigation took good solid police work and the teamwork of multiple agencies,” Bryant said.

All of those arrested on the federal indictments were taken to Little Rock where they appeared before a federal magistrate Thursday afternoon. Whether bond was set on those individuals was not immediately available.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anne Gardner and Edward Walker are prosecuting the cases for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

An indictment contains only allegations and all the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Those indicted by the federal grand jury, their status, and charges against them are as follows:

• Quentin Tidwell, 35, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Brandon Caffey, 22, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Keenan Packard, 26, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possession with intent to deliver, not in custody.

• Ryan O’Neal, 22, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possession with intent to deliver, not in custody.

• Terrance Coleman, 28, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possession with intent to deliver, not in custody.

• Charles Thomas, 27, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Damon Sisson, 33, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, in custody.

• Charles Petty, 29, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Darryl Rankins, 19, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Delmar Avery, 36, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, aiding and abetting possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Kyleisha Wright, 25, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, aiding and abetting possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Roarie Gibson, 27, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possession with intent to deliver, firearm in drug trafficking, not in custody.

• Caderro Gibson, 25, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, not in custody.

• Melvin Douglas, 34, charged with possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Tamerio Washington, 29, charged possession to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, not in custody.

• Ronald Morris, 50, charged possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Cory McGown, 25, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possess with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Sedric McGown, 37, charged conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine base, possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Romondo Jenkins, 36, charged possession with intent to deliver, not in custody.

• Glen Dale Thomas, 26, charged possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Donta Stokes, 34, charged possession with intent to deliver, not in custody.

• Derik Remon Lewis, 33, charged possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

• Billie Gene Batemon, 54, charged possession with intent to deliver, in custody.

The names of people charged in state court and the charges against them are as follows:

• Hasani Ramon Scott, charged delivery of a controlled substance.

• Darrell Jerome Miller, charged delivery of a controlled substance.

• Christopher S. Williams, charged delivery of a controlled substance.

• Mario A. Sims, charged delivery of a controlled substance.

• Courtney Allen, charged delivery of a controlled substance.

• Clarence R. Patillo, charged delivery of a controlled substance.

• Maurice Cosen, charged delivery of cocaine.

• Hasheem Elam Packard, charged delivery of cocaine.

• Michael King Jr., charged delivery of cocaine.

• Jamarious Aytch, charged delivery of cocaine.

In September 2010, a similar operation was conducted in Jefferson County where 29 suspects, linked to drug trafficking, were arrested during Operation Hog Wild, a 19-month joint federal-state investigation.

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