Trapdoor drugs

More than $2.1 million in methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl and other illegal drugs are now off Southwest Virginia streets following a two-year multi-agency investigation police dubbed Operation Trapdoor.

Virginia State Police Lt. Jason Robinson said at a press conference in Dublin that the operation initially began as a routine narcotics investigation in Carroll County by the Twin County Drug Task Force.

That investigation mushroomed into other parts of the state, resulting in the arrest of nine individuals including two Mexican nationals who police believe are responsible for a large portion of the area’s drug supply.

“The most significant final push in the investigation occurred a few weeks ago on Sept. 26 in Floyd County,” Robinson said.

On that day, investigators executed search warrants at two residences in the 100 block of Pine Mountain Road in Floyd. The search yielded a record seizure of nearly 31 pounds of meth, six pounds of cocaine, a large quantity of fentanyl pills and 21 illegal firearms. Robinson said the methamphetamine had a street value of about $1.4 million, while the cocaine was estimated at about $307,000 and the fentanyl pills at about $141,000.

Among the firearms seized during the search were several handguns and rifles, including AK and AR style rifles, Robinson said.

Charged in the Floyd leg of the investigation are 31-year-old Jorge Humberto Martinez-Estrada and 47-year-old Alvaro Tejeda-Galvan, both of Floyd. The two men were charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute a schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance, possession of a firearm while in possession of a schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance and possession of a firearm by a non-U.S. citizen.

Martinez-Estrada and Tejeda-Galvan are being held at the regional jail in Dublin without bond. In addition to the drug charges, the two men are being held on ICE retainers, Robinson said.

The other individuals arrested as part of the two-year investigation weren’t identified during Wednesday’s press conference, but Robinson said the entire investigation netted more than 30 charges.

Prior to Martinez-Estrada and Tejeda-Galvan’s arrests in September, state and local investigators seized seven pounds of methamphetamine worth around $315,000 in street value during the investigation, Robinson said.

As the initial investigation spread from Carroll and Grayson counties and into Wythe and Pulaski counties, the Claytor Lake Drug Task Force came on board the operation.

“State and local investigators’ pursuit of this complex drug network led them to numerous other locations across Virginia and into other states . . .and, eventually, Mexico,” Robinson said.

The Claytor Lake Drug Task Force consists of investigators with the Wythe and Pulaski county sheriff’s offices, the Pulaski Police Department and the Virginia State Police. The Twin County Drug Task Force is comprised of investigators from the Grayson and Carroll County sheriff’s offices, the Galax Police Department and the Virginia State Police

Both Robinson and Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan said the investigation allowed police to remove a good chunk of the area’s drug supply from the streets.

“These guys were top suppliers in Wythe County,” Dunagan said. “This is probably the biggest drug seizure Wythe County has ever been involved with, ever.”

Both men said Operation Trapdoor was only possible because of the hard work and dedication of the investigators from each agency.

“Most people couldn’t imagine the thousands of hours that were put into this case and these guys worked day and night,” Dunagan said.

“Because of that number of hours, no single agency could have done this alone, it’s not possible,” Robinson said.

That’s why it’s important for state and local agencies to come together to collaborate on investigations, he said.

In addition to work on the Claytor Lake Drug Task Force, Dunagan said his office is seeing a high number of drug arrests in Wythe County. He noted that last year the sheriff’s office was responsible for 567 drug charges in 2018, including misdemeanor offenses. Wythe County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Jones said he expects to see around 650 indictments by the end of the year.

Operation Trapdoor was supported by the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, and the Wythe, Carroll, Floyd, Carroll and Pulaski county commonwealths attorney’s offices, the Virginia State Police Tactical Teams, Counter-Terrorism and Criminla Interdiction Teams and High-Tech Crimes Division.

The DEA, ATF and Department of Homeland Security also provided technical assistance.

At an Oct. 10 hearing, after being denied bond, Martinez-Estrada requested to have his case heard during the next grand jury, Floyd County Commonwealth Attorney Eric Branscom said. Tejeda-Galvan is scheduled for a Dec. 19 preliminary hearing.

The next Floyd County grand jury will meet the first Tuesday in January 2020.

Jasmine Dent Franks can be reached at jfranks@wythenews.com.

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