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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Two accused drug dealers are under arrest in North Carolina, and law enforcement is linking them to a Mexican drug cartel. Police say they are affiliated with the violent La Familia gang.

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Police arrested Eddie Ballard and Pedro Garcia Ruelas in an undercover operation last week.  A raid that police have been efforting for six months. 

Their arrests took more than a million dollars worth of cocaine off the streets, but investigators say there are more members of the gang here and ready to go.

"La Familia is a violent drug trafficking cartel.  We still think they are very active in our area," said Greenville Police Chief Bill Anderson. 

For the past year, Anderson, along with the Greenville Drug Task Force has been investigating the gang. 

Police say last weeks bust was significant, but the fight is far from over. 

Sergeant Carlton Williams is the spokesperson for Greenville Police.  "Often times when we take one drug dealer off there's another one who will step in and take their place,” said Williams.  But Williams said this large drug bust puts a significant dent in the gangs operations. 

Williams says drug trafficking starts with the distributors, back in places like Mexico and Colombia.  Those distributors, also known as drug lords rely on drug mules. Those mules are the people who transport the drugs to places like Eastern North Carolina. 

Once the drugs get here, dealers break down large kilos, the ones confiscated in the bust, into smaller portions. 

Dealers then mix in other substances as part of the process to stretch the cocaine. They then sell it off in small amounts.  Those small amounts pop up in neighborhoods all over the east.

"The guy on the corner who’s dealing the drugs peddling his small amount of cocaine, or cooking it up into crack and distributing it in the crack rock form," said Williams. 

Police say large busts like this slow down the local drug market. 

Greenville Police said they couldn’t have pulled off a large bust like this one without the help of the other agencies who are part of the task force.

Williams says when law enforcement on the state and federal level get involved, it sends a strong message to drug lords.

"It does let the drug dealers know there is a force that is going to reckon with them,” said Williams.  “We're not just some small town where you're going to just be able to come in and infiltrate our streets with drugs."

And if they try, Williams says they will wind up behind bars. 

When dealing with gangs, crime is often times a concern.  Williams told Nine on Your Side during the time they began investigating La Familia,

there has not been an increase in gang-related crime.  He says that could be because the drug cartels want to keep a low profile.

-Previous story-

GREENVILLE, N.C. – More than two-million dollars worth of cocaine ready to be sold in eastern Carolina will never hit the streets.

Greenville Police and several other agencies joined forces in a drug operation that landed three people in jail.

Officers confiscated the drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

Police made two separate busts.

One came to a head after a six-month operation.

Investigators say the suspects involved in that one are connected to the Mexican gang La Familia. Authorities say the gang is one of the main suppliers that traffic drugs here in the east. 

Greenville's Drug Task Force seized millions of dollars worth of cocaine over three days last week.

"We want this to send a clear message that we're pretty much on top of their operations,” said Greenville Police Chief William Anderson.

On June 5th, police pulled over Robin Martinez on Stantonsburg Road in Greenville.

Drug sniffing dogs searched her car.

"Law enforcement officers seized 10 kilograms of powder cocaine in a hidden compartment with an estimated street value of 1-million dollars,” said Anderson.

The second multi-agency operation brought an end to nearly six months worth of work. 

Over two days they made a couple of more arrests.

On June 6th, police picked up Eddie Ballard at a home on David Drive in Greenville. 

Detectives say they seized more than 600-thousand dollars of worth of cocaine as well as more than 200-thousand dollars in cash from there and another home in Vanceboro. 

They say Ballard led them to Pedro Garcia Ruelas.

They raided Ruelas' Chapel Hill home the next day where they found more 800-thousand dollars worth of cocaine.

“The suspects that were arrested as part of this investigation were directly connected to the La Familia drug cartel,” said Anderson.

Authorities say all of the drugs were destined for Craven County.

They hope it sends a message to their bosses. 

“Anytime you see this amount of narcotic taken off the streets it's got to affect their operations, it's got to affect the amount of drugs that actually reach the streets,” said Anderson.

Police also say that two-million dollars worth of drugs off the street will have an impact all over eastern North Carolina in the communities where the drugs would have been sold.

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