MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A long term investigation of drug trafficking in the Memphis area culminated in the arrest of six suspects and the seizure of 1,000 pounds of marijuana and $500,000 in cash, federal investigators said Wednesday.
Officials said Miguel Munoz, Armando Prado, Timothy Bailey, Hugo Estrado, Vincente Vazquez and Vikki Casteel were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute.
Casteel was arrested at her home on Holmes Road, where a big rig packed with drugs was parked outside.
According to investigators, the suspects are responsible for allegedly bringing several thousand pounds of marijuana into the Memphis area from Mexico since late 2008. The charges carry a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Investigators said the operation was highly sophisticated. The group sealed the pot inside airtight plastic containers, poured adhesive in them, and labeled them to look like professional industrial chemicals.
"This was a very significant group - very well organized," said Agent Keith Brown. Federal agents refer to Memphis as a "drug hub" - a city at the center of the country's narcotics network and a major player in the distribution of pot.
"We are, in the Mid-South, considered a hub for this type of distribution," said Shelby Co. Sheriff Mark Luttrell. "This is not the first large bust that we've made."
But investigators say they hope the bust will send a clear message to drug dealers.
"If you come to Memphis, with us working together, we're going to rid you of bringing that to our city," said MPD Deputy Director Janice Pilot. "We're not going to tolerate it."