Huntsville police drug agents play major role in federal operation, 36 arrests

Drug agents from Huntsville spent about 4,000 hours on the operation.

Posted: Oct 15, 2019 7:58 PM
Updated: Oct 16, 2019 7:41 AM

WAAY 31 learned more on Tuesday about the Huntsville Police Department's major involvement in the multi-agency operation that led to 36 arrests and got illegal drugs and guns off the streets in North Alabama.

U.S. Marshals are working to track down two more people. Huntsville police shared the department teamed up with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to help find criminals across North Alabama.

Drug agents from Huntsville spent about 4,000 hours on the operation. Huntsville police agents say they worked around the clock on this operation, and they're hoping having help from other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies will help them not see the men involved back out on the streets anytime soon.

Lt. Tony McElyea is the commander for the multi-jurisdictional federal drug task force, STAC, that's led by Huntsville police.

"We have the same network of people that we usually see on a rotating basis here locally. Anytime they get federal charges, they are held longer than they are on the state system, and it does help clean up our streets," Lt. Tony McElyea said.

He says the recent operation with the postal inspection service is the longest and largest the task force has ever worked on.

"We used the U.S. Postal Inspector to track packages. They identified packages that were going to this organization. We were able to use that information to obtain search warrants and track those packages," he said.

McElyea said the postal inspector worked quickly to get federal search warrants for packages the agency's drug dog believed contained drugs. The postal inspection service says it wants to stop illegal drugs from being sent through the postal service.

"We will continue to make sure things are safe in the mail...that our customers are safe, our employees are safe," said Dana Carter with the United States Postal Inspection Service.

Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner's team played a role in helping round up some of the suspects in the final stage of the operation last week. Turner says he worked the streets for 20 years doing narcotics and gang investigations and he's familiar with the criminals and has seen the drug market change.

"Five, six, seven years ago, when I was working the street, we were buying kilos of cocaine. Now, you're buying kilos of methamphetamine, ice, and now, you're seeing heroin come back into the picture with fentanyl," he said.

Officials say without all the agencies working together, all the suspects would still be on the streets.

"Without the other agencies that are involved in STAC being involved in the case, I don't think it would have been such a success," McElyea said.

The suspects are facing multiple federal charges.

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