Forty people were arrested Monday morning in Ascension Parish on allegations that they participated in the sale of cocaine or other illegal drugs.
Federal and local investigators were continuing to search for eight other people alleged to have sold illegal drugs during a joint investigation that began in April.
“This is an (inter-agency) effort to get drug dealers off the streets,” U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said at a news conference.
Cazayoux said powder cocaine, crack cocaine, Ecstasy, heroin and methamphetamine dealers were targeted. He said at least 2.2 pounds of powder cocaine were seized.
Jimmy S. Fox III, special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s office in New Orleans, said the powder cocaine and other seized drugs had a combined wholesale value of $150,000.
“Clearly, the streets of Ascension Parish are safer today than they were last April,” Fox added.
Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson and Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley said they asked for undercover help from the DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Team.
Through MET, police officers and sheriff’s deputies worked with DEA investigators to build cases against the 48 suspects.
“This is the most dangerous work you can do,” Wiley added.
“We dealt a major blow to the drug dealers we had in our communities,” Jackson said.
U.S. Marshal Kevin Harrison, whose deputies led pre-dawn forced entries into several houses, said no shots were fired during those arrests.
At least one assault rifle was among seven firearms seized, Harrison added.
Fox said 80 percent of all criminal activity has its genesis in illegal drugs.
“It has a tremendous impact on the community,” Fox said.
Twenty-five of the Ascension Parish suspects were indicted by a federal grand jury in Baton Rouge.
The remaining 23 were named in arrest warrants obtained by the staff of 23rd Judicial District Attorney Ricky Babin.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer M. Kleinpeter noted that some of the suspects were released less than a year ago from prison terms for prior drug offenses in Ascension Parish.
Kleinpeter is the deputy criminal chief in charge of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force for the Baton Rouge area.
The names of suspects listed on the state District Court warrants were not released Monday.
Those charged in federal indictments include Oscar Daniel Avila, 22, conspiracy to distribute more than a pound of cocaine and distribution of crack cocaine; Wade J. Bercegeay, 35, and Robby Earl Brock, no age released, both charged with possession, distribution and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine; Gregory Cato, 38, and Lawrence Paul Coco III, 48, distribution of crack cocaine.
Also indicted were Jamie Elizabeth Elwood, 24, possession, conspiracy to distribute and distribution of crack cocaine, and Deon L. Grayer, 24, distribution of powder cocaine.
Indictments also were returned against Randolph A. Harris, 38, distribution of crack cocaine; Lawrence J. Harvey, 43, distribution of powder cocaine and crack cocaine and possession of marijuana; Morris E. Harvey Jr., 25, possession of powder cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug crime; Leo F. Haymond III, 31, distribution of crack cocaine; Reginald D. Holland, 42, distribution of crack cocaine.
Also indicted were Laiq Q. Irvin, 30, distribution of crack cocaine; Jasan T. Johnson, 36, distribution of crack cocaine; Christopher Earl Landry, 31, distribution of heroin; and Trendell Demond Lomas, 35, distribution of crack cocaine.
Others indicted were James Miles, 37, distribution of powder cocaine and crack cocaine; Tyrone North, 34, distribution of crack cocaine; Eldridge Riley, 50, distribution of crack cocaine and possession of firearms by a convicted felon.
Also indicted for alleged distribution of crack cocaine were Reginald Tapp, 52, Randerro M. Thompson, 35, and Carl Tucker Jr., 58.
Others indicted for alleged distribution of crack cocaine were Wilbert West, 50, Kendrick Williams, 40, and Gerald York Jr., 37.