COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced Thursday the arrests of 18 people associated with a heroin ring in South Carolina. A nineteenth person is expected to turn himself in to authorities.
The investigation that began in September 2009 resulted in charges of trafficking heroin and possession of heroin with intent to distribute against those arrested.
According to SLED, a Mexican-based cartel conspired to provide heroin to three cells in SC. The cells are located in Lexington and Richland counties, Horry and Georgetown counties and Charleston County. Information gathered during the investigation indicates that the heroin is responsible for 12 overdoses, resulting in six deaths in the Charleston area.
Law enforcement officials say the drug trafficking organization is responsible for brining 30 kilograms, or $5.5 million worth of heroin into the state. The heroin was mostly packaged in balloons ready for distribution.
SLED Director Reggie Lloyd says, "SLED's intent is to get ahead of the narcotics problem in the state, instead of being reactive to drug trafficking organizations. This case is similar to other on-going investigations we have at this time. We are continuing to focus SLED resources to addressing violent crime in South Carolina."
More arrests are expected in connection with Operation Black Poppy. Agencies involved in the investigation include the Richland County Sheriff's Office, the Lexington County Sheriff's Office, the Columbia Police Department, the West Columbia Police Department, the Cayce Department of Public Safety, the Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor's Drug Enforcement Unit, the South Carolina Attorney General's Office and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The following people all face multiple charges, including trafficking cocaine (conspiracy), four counts of trafficking heroin greater than 28 grams, trafficking heroin 14-28 grams and possession with intent to distribute heroin: