HARRISON (KFSM) — Authorities have arrested 18 people and indicted more than 20 who were linked to a drug trafficking ring in Boone and Carroll counties as part of Operation Iced Ozarks.
The case dates to October 2018, when the FBI began “an intensive investigation regarding a large scale drug trafficking organization” in the area, according to federal court documents.
Agents were able to monitor telephone conversations of someone distributing methamphetamine in Harrison, which led them to Jason Alvarez, who agents believe is the leader of the organization.
Sources told investigators that Jason Alvarez typically received about 100 pounds of liquid meth per shipment and converted it to a solid form.
He would then “clean” it using acetone — a solvent commonly used to make plastics — and distribute it locally as well as out of state, according to court documents.
Investigators later searched a home in Alpena owned by Jason Alvarez’s father, Walter Alvarez, where they found more than 100 pounds of meth — some of which was undergoing liquid-to-solid conversion.
In April, authorities arrested both Jason and Walter Alvarez, as well as one of their associates, Daniel Perez-Lebron, after intercepting several messages between the men discussing drug trafficking.
All three men were indicted last month in federal court for conspiracy to distribute meth, possession of more than 500 grams of a substance or mixture containing meth and maintaining drug-involved premises.
“This investigation is an example of the great work accomplished by our federal and state law enforcement partners working together to combat these dangerous drugs that are a threat to our communities,” said Duane “Dak” Kees, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.
“These arrests and this seizure of methamphetamine should send a serious message to those in our district that are engaged in the distribution of methamphetamine.”
Alongside the Alvarez’s and Perez-Lebron, 21 others were indicted for distributing meth around Harrison, including:
- Amanda Marie Wall, 32, of Lead Hill
- Christy Lynn Reynolds, 37, of Harrison
- Lindsey Brooke Johnson, 36, of Everton
- Jessica Chelsea Starkey, 26, of Harrison
- Cristen Shillings, 35, of Harrison
- Darian Brittain, 23, of Harrison
- Sydney Lynn Martin, 20, of Harrison
- Champayne Lamar Manning, 27, of Western Grove
- Robert Leroy Black, 27, of Harrison
- Nathan Ron Collins, 46, of Harrison
- Steven Ray Kollin, 26, of Harrison
- Zachary Lee Manning, 31, of Harrison
- Jerry Don “JD” Richardson, 30, of Harrison
- Sherrie Denise Snelling, 35, of Harison
- Michael Allan Barnett, 30, of Diamond City
- James Andrew Davidson, 28, of Mt. Judea
- Louis Marcil III
- Malia Anne McEaney
- Hailey Danielle Doss-Triplett
- Brayden Thomas Cornelius
Fifteen of the 21 people indicted are being held at jails in Fort Smith, Fayetteville and Harrison with holds for federal court. They’re set to appear before a judge in the coming days.
Operation Ice Ozarks is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program.
Established in 1982, OCDETF is part of the DOJ’s drug supply reduction strategy, which aims to disrupt major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
“We all remain dedicated to the eradication of illegal drug trafficking organizations from our great state,” said Diane Upchurch, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Little Rock office.
Upchurch added that the arrests wouldn’t have been possible without help from local law enforcement.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Harrison Police Department, Boone County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas National Guard and 14th Judicial Drug Task Force assisted the FBI with the investigation.