COLUMBUS, Ind. — Federal authorities have said that a group of people in Indiana who were indicted on drug trafficking and money laundering charges late last month had ties to a Mexican drug cartel that was once run by notorious leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — including four people in Bartholomew and Jackson counties.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Indianapolis announced April 29 that 18 people from Indiana are facing charges for allegedly conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and other drugs in Bartholomew County and elsewhere in central and southern Indiana. Nine are accused of laundering proceeds of the conspiracy.
The announcement was made a day after raids were conducted in Columbus, Seymour, Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Detroit. Suspects include two people from Columbus, two from Seymour, 11 from Indianapolis, one from Terre Haute, one from Phoenix and one from Mexico.
An additional six people face state drug charges in Bartholomew and Jackson counties, federal authorities said.
Drug Enforcement Administration officials told The Republic that the individuals facing federal charges have ties to the Sinaloa Cartel, which experts say controls a wholesale distribution network in the U.S. and elsewhere to get drugs into the hands of local street dealers.
Some local officials, including Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers, said people with ties to the cartel may still be operating locally.
“This is a big hit,” Myers said. “But I want people to know, locally, that the cartel is in Columbus, Indiana.”
“There are cartels presently here,” Myers added. “They’ve been here. They’re organized, and there’s probably cartel (members) here right now that we don’t even know (about).”
Officials declined to discuss the specifics of the case as it makes it way through federal court, but said the investigation resulted in the seizure of about 82 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,750 fentanyl pills, 35 grams of fentanyl, 1 kilogram of cocaine, 4 pounds of marijuana, “a large quantity” of suspected THC gummies, $9,000 in cash and nine guns.
As of Wednesday, no further details on the case had emerged in federal court filings.
Mike Gannon, assistant special agent in charge at the DEA’s Indianapolis Field Office, said the suspects were “some of the biggest suppliers” of drugs in Bartholomew and Jackson counties — including methamphetamine and fentanyl, an opioid that is more potent than heroin which officials say is one of the main culprits of a record surge in local overdose deaths in recent years — including at least 101 deaths since 2019.
“The outer counties were being supplied with significant quantities of methamphetamine from high-level sources in Indianapolis and then, of course, the ties back to Mexico,” Gannon said.
Gannon said the arrests and indictments were the culmination of a “long-term” investigation in collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, including the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, Columbus Police Department, Seymour Police Department, among others.
“The partners were able to work with care and try to make a difference in our community, just like DEA. It was extraordinary work.” Gannon said. “…We’re going to continue to work hand in hand with Seymour police, Columbus police, Bartholomew County (Sheriff’s Department) and all our state and local partners to do what we need to do to combat this problem.”
For the complete story and details about how local law enforcement worked with the DEA to reach the indictments announced in late April, see Thursday’s Republic.