The Batesville Police Department announced Thursday the arrest of a Panola County man who is alleged to operate "one of the largest drug rings in Mississippi," Police Chief Tony Jones said.
Lonzo Lezell Griffin of Courtland and Cypress, TX was arrested in Grenada Tuesday, November 16 on federal and state charges along with 18 other people in two states, including Clemeko Dwayne Starks of Sardis. Starks was arrested in Texas, BPD Special Operations Division officer Charles Tindall said.
The criminal complaint filed in U. S. Northern District Federal Court states that "From on or about July 26, 2010, through on or about November 12, 2010, in the Northern District of Mississippi and elsewhere, ... Griffin ..., did knowingly and willfully conspire with persons known and unknown to the United State Attorney to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 500 grams of a mixture and substance containing cocaine hydrochloride (powder cocaine) ..."
A criminal complaint typically reveals only enough information secure an arrest.
The police department's Special Operations Division worked with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Oakland Police Department, the Water Valley Police Department, the Coffeeville Police Department and the Yalobusha County Sheriff's Department for over a year to help develop the investigation that led to the arrests on federal complaints charging narcotic-related offenses, according to the announcement.
"Sgt. Jamie Tedford, officers Charles Tindall and Nick Hughes of the BPD Special Operations Division, who are contracted with MBN, have been working on this investigation after receiving information regarding the alleged complaints," Jones said.
Tindall and Hughes said that state and local officers making drug arrests in cases that initially appeared unrelated began noticing similarities in late 2009 "when all the pieces started falling into place and everything started making sense," Tindall said.
"At this point, $351,000 in cash, 349.3 grams of crack cocaine, 1,487 grams of powder cocaine, 50 pounds of marijuana, 14 units of ectascy, 100 ml. of codeine syrup and 19 guns have been seized.
No bond has been set, said Kristi Allen, a spokesman for the U. S. Attorney in Oxford. Griffin and Starks will make their initial appearance at Aberdeen today in Mississippi Northern District U. S. Court before Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis, Allen said. Also arrested in the investigation and scheduled for an Aberdeen court appearance Friday morning are Ronnie Dean Bennett and Undrake Lawmarco Lane, both of West Point, Jamie Terrell Bean of Pheba, Tomisha Latrice Ford of Nettleton and LC Ewing of Tupelo. The other 11 defendants are scheduled for court appearances in different.
"People get frustrated with us sometimes when we don't make arrests," said Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey, who attended the press conference where the arrests were announced. "Good cases like this take a long time and a lot of hard work."