HOLDENVILLE — Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies put the brakes on what Bill Peterson, district attorney in Hughes and Pontotoc counties, describes as a major drug distribution network in southeastern Oklahoma. Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, said 17 arrest warrants and 12 search warrants were executed around 6:30 a.m. Thursday at rural locations around Hughes County including Calvin and Holdenville. Peterson said 13 arrests were made Thursday and more warrants will be executed in the next few days. According to Peterson the warrants are related to a multi-agency investigation that began eight months ago.

"This is a sizable hit on drug distribution in southeastern Oklahoma," said Peterson. "It never ceases to amaze me how organized the drug task force is and how well the plan is executed."

Eleven people are in custody, including Woody Michael Rippetoe, 49, Calvin, who Woodward said was the primary target. According to Woodward, Rippetoe "always seemed to have dope to sell," including methamphetamine and marijuana.

Other arrests linked to the investigation include Michael Kent Blaylock, 47, Loretta Hance, 37, both of Calvin, Barbara Gail Pitts, 49, Michelle Bell, 31, John Bell, 31, Mary Chronister, 47, John Tallant, 39, Bernadine Borders, 38, Roger Crawford, 37, Karen Lee Arthur, 40, Darla Jean O’Kelley, 50, and Keith Lynn Walton, 40, all of Holdenville. All were taken to Hughes County Jail and charged with state and federal crimes.

"The Drug Task Forces in this area have worked tirelessly over the past several months using this information to build solid cases on some of the largest drug suppliers in Hughes County. In addition to dealing meth and marijuana, some of these individuals have ties to violent local biker gangs, and we are glad they've been removed from the community," Woodward said.

Although this investigation began several months ago, law enforcement officials in Hughes County have gathered information for several years about large quantities of methamphetamine and marijuana being distributed in the area according to Tom Cunningham, Oklahoma Drug Task Force coordinator.

"The law enforcement officers have done a magnificent job today in arresting several organized drug traffickers and high level dealers. Their arrests are the result of an eight-month investigation by the District 22 Drug Task Force, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, District 23 Drug Task Force, Holdenville Police Department, Seminole Police Department, Hughes County Sheriff's Office, Pontotoc County Sheriff's office, Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse Police and Oklahoma Highway Patrol. This will put a sizable dent in the drug distribution in southeastern Oklahoma," said Peterson.

"This investigation is an example of why District Attorney's Drug Task Forces are so important to drug enforcement in rural Oklahoma," Cunningham said. "Their ability to organize local, state and federal resources is what makes a difference in our communities. Their continued funding at the state and federal level is vital."

Cunningham said 75 percent of funding for the drug task force comes from federal funds. This year those funds were reduced by $1.4 million, he said. District attorneys are seeking supplemental funding for drug task forces in rural areas of the state.

"Drug task forces are the largest most active drug enforcement group in the state, Cunningham said. In 2005, more than 3,200 arrests were drug-related and 1,500 were related to methamphetamine

In addition to several arrests in Hughes County, authorities also seized 105 grams of methamphetamine, a quarter ounce of marijuana, several dozen guns, six cars, three motorcycles, about $3,500 cash and stolen property.

All defendants are facing charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled dangerous substances.

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