January 31, 2013 10:22:12 AM
Agents with the Lowndes County Narcotics Unit plan to arrest 13 people today on federal weapons and narcotics charges.
Agents began the round-up at 6 a.m. today in a joint operation conducted with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the U.S. Marshals Service and Lowndes County Sheriff's Deputies.
The majority of the 13 suspects live in Lowndes County, but agents will also travel within the state and into Alabama to make arrests.
The charges stem from Operation Full Throttle, a year-long investigation into narcotic activity in Lowndes County and the surrounding areas.
Narcotics Commander Bobby Grimes said the operation has led to the arrest and federal indictment of 28 people, not including the 13 they hope to apprehend Thursday. Grimes said 60 additional arrests are expected in the coming months.
Operation Full Throttle is one of the largest narcotics investigations in Lowndes County in recent years. The investigation resulted in the discovery of two drug rings that were distributing more than 10 kilos of cocaine a month in Columbus and the surrounding areas. As part of the operation, agents seized more than $180,000 in cash and 23 vehicles. Operation Full Throttle was conducted by the now defunct Metro-Narcotics Unit, a joint task force of narcotics agents from the Sheriff's Department and the Columbus Police Department. The CPD did not assist in Thursday's arrests and is no longer involved in the investigation.
Lowndes County Sheriff Mike Arledge said those arrested in Thursday's round-up will be transported to Aberdeen by U.S. Marshals, where they will be arraigned in front of a U.S. Magistrate. They will be prosecuted by the United States District Attorney.
As opposed to being charged by the state, where a person convicted may only serve a portion of his sentence, those convicted on federal charges serve every day of their sentence.
The names and charges of those arrested are not currently being released because they are all federal charges but are expected to be released once they are all indicted. However, three of those arrested on Thursday lived on McCall Drive and Pandora Drive in Columbus, the Dispatch has learned.
Arledge said Thursday's arrests will have a large impact on the drug trade in Lowndes County.
"These are high level drug dealers. It's going to put a big dent in the drug trafficking in the Lowndes County area," he said.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
1. Vasquez murder affidavit reveals more details COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. A beloved doctor retires after 40 years COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY