Twist In Case
Of Mexican Drug
By BILL JONES
The charges in which 33 people have been indicted conspiring to distribute more than 24,000 pounds of marijuana in Northeast Tennessee are the result of an investigation code-named "Operation Talisman."
It was jointly headed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) office in Johnson City and the Washington County Tennessee Sheriff's Office.
During the course of the investigation, DEA agents and Washington County Sheriff's investigators discovered that members of the organization were using iconic figures from the Mexican culture as a means of attempting to protect themselves from law enforcement agents and to provide them with luck, a news release said.
These figures include "La Santa Muerta," known in Mexican culture as the "Saint of Holy Death," and "Jesus Malverde," who is commonly referred to as the "Patron Saint of Narco Traffickers." Neither figure is recognized by the Catholic Church, the release noted.
"The worship of these figures is becoming more widespread across the United States, and this investigation marks the first significant encounter of these figures in the Eastern District of Tennessee," the release added.
A government press release said, "(Washington County) Sheriff Ed Graybeal provided extensive manpower to assist in the investigation, which developed ties from members of the organization in Washington County, Tenn.; to Louisville, Ky.; Springfield, Ill.; McDowell County, N.C.; Madison, Neb.; Las Vegas, Nev.; San Bernardino, Calif., Houston; and McAllen, Tex."
Many law-enforcement officers were involved. They included agents with the Tennessee First Judicial Drug Task Force, Johnson City Police Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), Jonesborough Police Department, Bristol Tennessee Police Department, Unicoi County Sheriff's Office, and Carter County Sheriff's Office.
Also providing "invaluable assistance" during the investigation, according to the release, assisting were officers of the Portland, Tenn., Police Department, Louisville, Ky., Police Department, Houston, Texas, Police Department, McAllen, Texas, Police Department, San Bernardino, Calif., Police Department, Texas Department of Safety-Highway Patrol and Narcotics Division, McDowell County, N.C., Sheriff's Department, Madison County N.C. Sheriff's Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. Border Patrol, National Park Service rangers stationed on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the U.S. Forest Service.