HEROIN BUST: Investigation nets 65 arrests in 7 Minn. counties - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

HEROIN BUST: Investigation nets 65 arrests in 7 Minnesota counties

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Jack Riley, special agent-in-charge with the DEA, discusses the Minnesota bust on April 17. Photo by Maury Glover Jack Riley, special agent-in-charge with the DEA, discusses the Minnesota bust on April 17. Photo by Maury Glover
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Local and federal authorities announced Thursday that more than 65 people have been charged in the largest heroin tracking investigation in state history, known as "Operation Exile."

Andrew Lugar, the United States attorney representing the district of Minnesota, joined Jack Riley, special agent-in-charge of the Chicago field division of the DEA, announced that dozens of heroin distributors are now facing state and federal drug trafficking charges.

"In recent years, high-purity, inexpensive heroin in powder form has been imported to Minnesota in large quantities," Lugar said. "Operation Exile is a coordinated law enforcement campaign to investigate and prosecute heroin traffickers at all levels in Minnesota. Our goal is to make it as difficult as possible for drug cartels to bring heroin to our state."

In addition to the arrests, agents and officers executed dozens of search warrants across the state and they say more charges are expected to follow as that evidence is processed.

PRE-DAWN RAIDS AIM TO STOP SUPPLY

Early Thursday morning, hundreds of law enforcement officers moved throughout Minnesota to execute search warrants and make arrests, but the major enforcement effort was officially launched in December 2013.

To date, officers have seized:

- 2.5 kilograms of heroin
- Weapons, including firearms
- $250,000 in alleged drug proceeds

OPERATION EXILE

The investigation involved officials from several local, state and federal agencies, including:

- DEA
- FBI
- ATF
- ICE
- U.S. Marshals Service
- HSI
- National Guard
- Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
- Anoka County sheriff's and attorney's offices
- Dakota County sheriff's and attorney's offices
- Hennepin County sheriff's and attorney's offices
- Olmsted County sheriff's and attorney's offices
- Ramsey County sheriff's and attorney's offices
- St. Louis County sheriff's and attorney's offices
- Washington County sheriff's and attorney's offices
- Anoka-Hennepin Drug Task Force
- Hennepin County Violent Offender Task Force
- Lake Superior Drug & Violent Crime Task Force
- Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force
- Northwest Metro Drug Task Force
- Ramsey County Violent Crime Enforcement Team
- Southwest Hennepin Drug Task Force
- Southwest Metro Drug Task Force
- Washington County Drug Task Force
- West Metro Drug Task Force
- Duluth Police Department
- Maple Grove Police Department
- Plymouth Police Department
- Rochester Police Department
- St. Paul Police Department

Heroin abuse has become a significant problem nationwide. In fact, opiate abuse -- including prescription medications -- is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, surpassing car accidents in number of victims; however, Lugar said local law enforcement is determined to prevent Minnesota from facing an addiction crisis.

"Our goal is to tackle the problem of heroin addiction before heroin traffickers become embedded in our community," Lugar explained. "Operation Exile is an important step in making Minnesota off-limits to large-scale heroin distributors."

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