EXCLUSIVE ACCESS: Arrests, drugs and more than $1 million in cash in DEA sting
Operation Safe Haven was a result of months of investigations targeting high-level drug dealers.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Targeted raids ended in dozens of arrests and thousands of dollars of drugs pulled off the streets in a multi-state sting by local and federal agents this week.
As agents launched Operation Safe Haven across three states, only WDRB was there embedded with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Afterward, officials showed us bags of marijuana, heroin, ecstasy pills, pain pills, guns that were all confiscated.
WDRB cameras were there as teams geared up to hit the streets of Louisville for recent raids to begin confiscating illegal drugs and guns.
Special Agent in Charge of the Louisville Division of the DEA, D. Christopher Evans, says it took a lot of work leading up to the sting.
"There has been countless hours," he said. "Law enforcement officers having been working day and night on these investigations."
Warren Franklin, a DEA Group Supervisor, explained how the operation would unfold.
"This morning, we're going to a location that'll require SWAT entry for a search warrant," Franklin said. "We're working with our partners, the Louisville Metro Police, to target more heroin locations.
Even after the scene was secure, tensions ran high when a person drove up to the house on North 36th Street.
"Basically something like this ... detectives are working cases once it's deemed high risk..." LMPD Swat Officer Joel Casse said.
As he was talking, a car pulled up. SWAT officers told the person in the car to put their hands up.
Casse said the raid went well.
"It was a success. No one got hurt," he said. "We got the person we were looking for, and detectives have secured the location."
Police arrested Eric Deblanc and Deangelo Grisby. Investigators said they had cocaine, crack, marijuana and guns, some of which were stolen.
The raids this week are part of a major push by the DEA and LMPD to fight the deadly opioid epidemic that's taking lives in our community.
It's all part of a carefully orchestrated sting the DEA launched simultaneously across Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. The agency is going after street level dealers and hoping it leads to bigger players. They're also targeting health care workers and distributors.
Operation Safe Haven was a result of months-long investigations. Over the three states, there were 93 arrests, and investigators seized more than $1 million in cash, 40 firearms, heroin, fentanyl and other drugs.
The DEA didn't release seizure information specifically for Louisville.
"There are individuals who'd like to say they're associated with the cartel, but I don't want to get into active investigations and where things are," Evans said. "The cartels are looking to influence this region and bring their goods to the region."
Evans says it can be difficult to stop the cartels.
"If it was easy, it would've been done," he said. "It's a constant struggle."
Evans goes on to say he's confident the men and women in law enforcement are up to the task.
The DEA took us near a drug stash house that couldn't be shown on camera.
"A lot of times, stash houses are in the poorer neighborhoods because houses are sometimes abandoned, sometimes cheap to buy," Franklin said.
While we were at one location, agents executed search warrants in other parts of the city, landing suspect after suspect behind bars.
Police documents show Luis Bouffartiguez was arrested at a home on Glengarry Drive. The court read off a long criminal background for him that included charges from Florida going back decades. Judge Sean Delahanty read details of the case in court, " '90 in Miami, drugs and trafficking cocaine, conspiracy..."
The convicted felon was arrested again this week in the sting. Investigators say they found several ounces of fentanyl in his kitchen cabinets along with a gun.
In court, Bouffartiguez tried to explain why he had the drugs.
"The powder they found is for my chickens and the pigeons sir, there is no fentanyl" Bouffartiguez said. "They couldn't find nothing at my friend's house. That's my friend's house, so they tried to put that it is fentanyl, but you can check the bag."
Delahanty set his bond at $25,000 and said "No guns for you."
The DEA also hit 30 Louisville pharmacies, not for investigations, but for education. Pharmacists were given folders with information on how to contact them and what to look out for to spot drug dealers.
"They look for people driving long distances, people from out of state coming to certain pharmacies, groups of people that are coming with same prescriptions," said Martin Redd, a DEA Diversion Program Manager.
DEA Diversion Investigators visited more than 100 pharmacies in seven cities in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Carl Maskew, a DEA Diversion Investigator says pharmacies are "usually the first line of defense, first source of information for DEA."
While Operation Safe Haven was carried out this week, the effort, of course, continues as investigators work to take more cocaine, heroin and other drugs off the streets.
Franklin said when neighbors see police and the DEA out it sends a message.
"We hope they realize we want to make the community safer," he said.
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