The City of Memphis found itself in the middle of a coast-to-coast drug bust Tuesday.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency held a press conference Tuesday to announce arrests as part of Operation Black Gold Rush, an effort against a Mexico-based heroin operation that infiltrated 15 U.S. cities including Memphis. 15 people named in the Memphis indictments face various drug charges. 10 of those people were rounded up Tuesday. An 11th person should be arrested Wednesday, and agents believe the others are in Mexico.
Many of the drug buys went down at a Tiger Mart on Summer Avenue, a location close to where the dealers lived. Roughly five pounds of heroin was seized in Memphis, with a total street value of nearly $250,000.
Agents said since Operation Black Gold Rush began in November, they've recovered over 50 pounds of heroin nationwide, and roughly $230,000.
"When you seize 50 pounds of heroin, you look at that as billions of dosage units, or injection units," said Frank Seib, Associate Special Agent with the D.E.A. "You're taking billions of injections off the street."
Agents said the heads of the drug ring ran the operation like a business, requiring their franchises in various cities, including Memphis, two work 12-hours a day. Some members of the ring earned up to $15,000 per week.
Agents said the drug dealers recruited distributors and users from at least one methadone clinic in the city.
"They would use a non-Hispanic, someone who was already working for them, as a distributor, and send them to methadone clinics like an addict seeking assistance," said Andrew Diamand, Agent in Charge with the D.E.A. "He would recruit people and offer them heroin."