Nine white supremacists were arrested in Arkansas, along with 35 other people, on Wednesday as part of a major crackdown on local gun and drug crime.
The “To the Dirt” investigation was named for the New Aryan Empire slogan, which references the pledge that members of the Arkansas-based white supremacist prison gang are in the group until they die.
Law officials say they began investigating crimes by the white supremacist group and quickly realized their drug trade expanded into other states. Over the course of two years, agents made 59 controlled purchases of methamphetamine and seized more than 25 pounds of meth.
Eight of the indicted white supremacists are members of the NAE, according to law enforcement, while the ninth belongs to the White Aryan Resistance, another Arkansas-based white supremacist prison gang. Indictments were issued for 70 people, with 23 remaining at large.
Members of both NAE and WAR have been involved in a “laundry list of criminal activity,” said Glenn Daniel, a lieutenant in Arkansas’ Russellville Police Department. The NAE was also the subject of a kidnapping and battery case in June that left one man with a stab wound.
“Local law enforcement officials started investigating various crimes being committed by the NAE, including the distribution of methamphetamine,” said a Department of Justice press release. “It soon became apparent that the methamphetamine trafficking in this area went far beyond only NAE members, and the Fifth Judicial District Drug Task Force enlisted the help of the DEA and ATF.”
Law enforcement seized 69 firearms during the course of the investigation, including 45 guns, during the Wednesday morning arrests. Cody Hiland, the newly appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said at a press conference that police found 25 guns in one house and 14 in another. The seized firearms include handguns, rifles, shotguns, and high-capacity assault-style rifles.
“The New Aryan Empire is a white supremacist gang that is involved in drug and gun trafficking,” said Chris Givens, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas. “Anytime you have that combination of white supremacy ideas mixed with crime you’re going to have problems.”
Givens also said the arrests targeted people at all levels of the drug ring, from suppliers down to smaller street dealers.
“There’s certainly still people dealing methamphetamine in Pope and Yell County, Arkansas,” he said. “However any time there is an indictment of this size it is certainly going to deal a blow to any drug trafficking organization, especially considering that multiple suppliers have been indicted, not just the consumers.”