Stoddard County Deputy Steve Fowler, who also works as an agent with the SEMO Drug Task Force, said the most recent bust has disrupted a vital flow of marijuana which starts its journey on the Mexican border with Texas and travels through Texas, Arkansas, the Bootheel portion of missouri, through Illinois and into Indiana.
Fowler said the initial investigation started a long time ago.
"We started looking into this in the mid-90s," Fowler explained. "But then the meth problem got so big and we had to deal with that; and this just kind of fell by the wayside."
During the early stages of the investigation, Fowler said he had made contact with an informant in Florida and had even dealt with the national Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); but, after combating the meth problem and having some key players in the initial investigation incarcerated for other drug-related offenses, Fowler said things slowed.
But, according to Fowler, one of the key players who was also a vital link in the multi-state drug chain was recently released from prison in December 2004.
Originally suspected of dealing marijuana in the early part of the investigation in the mid-90s, John Kacy Jones, of Bloomfield allegedly became involved in the trafficking of marijuana to a certain degree and was a link in the chain that ran the drug through Stoddard County.
"We got a search warrant and went to (Jones') residence," Fowler said. "There we found a pound of dope and about $5,000 cash."
After some questioning, Fowler said Jones gave up enough information for Fowler and other agents to follow up on and establish a pattern.
"They were pretty organized," Fowler remarked. "In the truck we seized, we got ahold of some ledgers that were detailed as to where the drugs went and how much money was on hand from each transaction."
In all, Fowler said there are 19 individuals either already incarcerated or awaiting arrest on the charges.
As to the extent of Jones' involvement, Fowler said that Jones had admitted to transporting approximately 360 pounds of marijuana since the beginning of the year.
"This is just proof that we won't tolerate any kind of illegal drug activity here," Fowler said. "But this kind of investigation couldn't have been done without the work of the task force. And funding is starting to look like it's in trouble for law enforcement. This shows that we can't take those cuts."
Jonathon Dawe may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org