DEA busts Charlotte drug operation with ties to Mexican drug cartel

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The DEA and local authorities took down a major drug operation and arrested more than a dozen people who planned to sell heroin, meth and cocaine in local neighborhoods.

Officials said the deadly drugs were sent to Charlotte by a Mexican cartel called Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG).

“This cartel is one of the most deadly cartels in America, operating in America,” said DEA acting assistant special agent in charge Dustin Harmon.

The year-long DEA Task Force investigation included local officers, the State Bureau of Investigation, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The investigation resulted in 18 arrests -- mostly in Charlotte -- and the seizure of 40 pounds of heroin, 20 pounds of meth, and more than 15 pounds of cocaine. The drugs have a street value of $3.5 million.

Police said a firearm and $8,000 in cash were recovered during the course of the investigation.

Authorities said many of those arrested were living in the country illegally.

Channel 9 anchor Allison Latos was given exclusive access, seeing the massive amount of drugs and the sophisticated ways the cartel tried to sneak them to the Queen City.

Officials said there was not one specific neighborhood these drugs were destined for but would have been sold across the Charlotte region.

"There are a lot of long nights and early mornings for the agents and detectives involved, but we understand that's what we have to do," SBI Special Agent in Charge Audria Bridges said.

Authorities said they are committed to continuing to fight the cartel and the growing opioid epidemic.

"Those are the drugs causing overdose deaths, a lot of pain and suffering and misery in the community and we want to do everything we can to stop that," Mecklenburg County Assistant DA Jeff Davis said.

The DEA said there have been overdoses linked the Mexican drug cartel and they are working with international authorities.

The Charlotte case has led to charges in other states including California.

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