‘Operation Mountaineer Highway’ nets dozens of suspects, seizure of drugs, cash

OAK HILL, W.Va. — A multi-state drug organization that had been operating out of Oak Hill for at least the last three years was brought down early Thursday morning, when law enforcement from multiple agencies conducted a sting operation which they called “Operation Mountaineer Highway.”

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart and others announced the arrests of more than three dozen suspected drug traffickers. Stuart said they were responsible for distributing over 600 grams of heroin, fentanyl and nearly a kilogram of methamphetamine, cocaine and oxycodone.

“It went from New Jersey to West Virginia to South Carolina. It was a massive drug trafficking organization, almost a half-million dollars taken from the seizures, so far,” Stuart said Thursday.

According to Stuart, the investigation began in October 2017, after a Fayette County man was arrested for selling heroin and methamphetamine. The suspect later identified two of his primary drug suppliers to authorities. The resulting multi-agency sting operation, dubbed “Operation Mountaineer Highway,” culminated in the arrests of 38 suspects, and the seizure of over 1,000 oxycodone pills, over 600 grams of heroin and fentanyl, nearly 1,000 grams of methamphetamine and more than $360,000 in cash. Several vehicles were also seized.

Twelve individuals were charged in four federal indictments in the Southern District of West Virginia with conspiracy to distribute, possession with intent to distribute, and the distribution of heroin and fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, and oxycodone. Thirty-eight people face federal and state charges while authorities arrested an additional 54 people on state charges in unrelated cases.

“This is an important day for the people of southern West Virginia. As a result of the remarkable work of multiple law enforcement agencies, a significant drug trafficking organization has been shut down,” Stuart said. “We have been incredibly aggressive in our efforts to hold drug traffickers accountable, and we will continue our aggressive efforts until the poison peddlers and drug dealers are out of business. This case is a testament to what can be accomplished when federal, state and local law enforcement work so well together towards a common goal.”

Stuart emphasized that the investigation is ongoing, and that he expected there would be additional arrests in several states, resulting in federal and state charges, in connection with the operation.

“A lot of folks refer to this as a take down, I’d prefer to call it a tack back, because that’s our goal over the next several years to see how many streets we can take back,” Stuart said.

Following Thursday’s announcement, U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement, saying in part, “President Trump has made ending this crisis a top priority for this administration and under his leadership the Department of Justice has taken historic new steps to put drug traffickers in jail. Today we announce the dismantling of a drug trafficking organization that spread addiction and death from West Virginia to New Jersey.”

Joining Stuart in Thursday’s announcement were DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Gourley, ATF Resident Agent in Charge Adam Black, West Virginia State Police Captain Jason Davis, West Virginia National Guard Lieutenant Colonel William Annie, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Harrah, Fayette County Sheriff Mike Fridley, Oak Hill Police Chief Michael Whisman, Fayetteville Police Chief David Kinzer, Nicholas County Sheriff William Nunley, Summersville Police Chief John Nowak, National Park Service Chief Ranger Duane Michael, United States Marshal Michael Baylous, and representatives from the Beckley Police Department, Beckley/Raleigh County Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, and the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.

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