A total of 31 individuals are now in custody following an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force operation Nov. 14, led by special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration and officers from the Stephenville Police Department, on conspiracy and drug trafficking charges outlined in a criminal complaint filed earlier this month. Defendants arrested made their initial appearance last Friday before a U.S. Magistrate Judge. The announcement was made by Sarah R. Saldaña, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, and Daniel R. Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA in Dallas. The complaint charged 32 defendants with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to distribute. Twenty of those defendants were arrested in the operation, 11 are in custody at various locations on unrelated state charges, and one has not yet been arrested. "These arrests illustrate the success of our district's federal, state and local law enforcement partners' collaboration in taking down these drug trafficking organizations - whether they operate in large communities or in several rural counties as this one allegedly did," said Saldaña. "I commend the dedicated efforts of the DEA and the Stephenville Police Department, who led this OCDETF investigation, along with the Erath, Parker, Palo Pinto and Stephens County Sheriff's Offices, the Erath County District Attorney's Office, the Fort Worth and Weatherford Police Departments, the U.


S. Marshals Service and the Texas Department of Public Safety." "Drug trafficking organizations are determined to spread their poison in an attempt to make a profit on the backs of addiction," said Salter. "Today, the DEA and our state and local partners have made a significant impact on these organizations operating in our rural counties. I am grateful for the efforts of our special agents, prosecutors and law enforcement partners in dismantling this organization. Our law enforcement community is strong and together we are committed to ensuring that our communities are safe and drug free." The investigation began in December 2012 when the DEA and the Stephenville Police Department began investigating the methamphetamine trafficking of the Brittany Barron Drug Trafficking Organization and identified more than 100 individuals distributing for, or obtaining methamphetamine from, that DTO. The investigation involved undercover purchases and search warrants, and, throughout the investigation, substantial amounts of methamphetamine and cash were seized from the DTO. Law enforcement learned that this DTO, based in Stephenville, was allegedly responsible for distributing hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine, primarily in rural Texas counties, including Erath County, Parker County, Palo Pinto County, Comanche County, Eastland County, Stephens County, Hood County, Hamilton County, Somervell County and Taylor County. In addition, law enforcement has dismantled several of the DTO's suppliers, and it continues to investigate others that remain in operation. A federal criminal complaint is a written statement of the essential facts of the offense charged and must be made under oath before a magistrate judge. A defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The statutory penalty, upon conviction, for the offense charged is not less than five years or more than 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine. The U.S. Attorney's Office has 30 days to present the matter to a grand jury for indictment. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Smith.