September 25, 2013
Flagstaff Police Department (FPD) participated in a major investigation and arrest with other law enforcement agencies. The investigation, initiated by the Northern Arizona Street Crimes Taskforce (Metro) and FBI, began early last summer and led to the arrest of a Cartel member and two other high-profile drug distributors in Flagstaff.
The investigation utilized the help of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Bureau of Indian Affairs, US Marshall’s Office, as well as Coconino County Sherriff’s Office.
The main target of the investigation was 32-year-old Everardo “Lalo” Duarte of Phoenix. The investigation had confirmed that Duarte had ties to a major Mexican Drug Cartel. Duarte is believed to be a major drug supplier to Flagstaff and northern Arizona.
“This is an ongoing case, so there is a lot of stuff we can’t say until after the prosecution,” said FPD’s Public Relations Officer Sgt. Cory Runge.
During the investigation, which lasted over a year, undercover agents had purchased over 1.75 pounds of methamphetamine and more than an ounce of heroin. This was done in large purchases from dealers supplied by Duarte, who in turn supplied most of northern Arizona.
Upon conclusion of the investigation, Duarte was arrested in Yuma with nearly 32 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of $1.4 million, according to a press release by FPD earlier this month.
Police also arrested 33-year-old Dustin Ash of Flagstaff and 24-year-old Mitchell McKinnon, both of Flagstaff. Ash was charged with multiple counts of possession of dangerous drugs and narcotics for sale. McKinnon was charged with multiple counts of possession of narcotics.
“This is an extremely large amount of meth and a lot of heroin,” Runge said. “The connection to NAU is people who use meth and heroin at NAU are likely getting it through this supply chain.”
This will impact the drug flow into Flagstaff, but a lot of NAU students also live in Phoenix directly. The total impact of drug flow on campus is uncertain.
“The same people are addicted to drugs,” Runge said. “[This case] will decrease supply, so that the drug price will go up and it will dry out as people have trouble finding drugs so then they will revert to other drugs . . . They’ll use other drugs to fill the gap.”
FPD’s Chief of Police Kevin Treadway was unavailable for comment, as well as FPD investigators involved in the case while the investigation is still active. Little is known about where the suspects will be prosecuted or when, but they are each being charged with federal crimes.
Duarte was known to have been trafficking drugs across the Mexican border. He was doing exactly that when he was arrested. The name of his affiliated cartel has been omitted for the safety of parties involved.
It is uncertain how many drug dealers on campus are affected by this case. Originally, the arrest of the “Mountain View” drug dealer on Sept. 6 was thought to be tied to the same supply chain, but has now been ruled it was most likely not affiliated directly to Duarte’s group. According to an NAUPD report, that alleged dealer was supplied directly from Phoenix.
A search in that subject’s dorm room resulted in an arrest for possession of marijuana for sale, but the report said nothing of meth or heroin in that case. There is no suspicion that Duarte’s group was connected to distribution on campus.
One thing is certain: users of meth and heroin are likely to see an increase in cost. FPD hopes that this will cause users will seek less destructive recreation.