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O'Neill Drug Bust: Only Matter of Time

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A drug bust in O'Neill lands nine in jail, with more arrests expected. On Thursday, State Patrol broke a drug trafficking ring that ran throughout Holt County. The heart of the operation was in the small town of O'Neill.

Residents said it was only a matter of time, not knowing exactly what may have been cooking in their neighbor's home, but knowing it could not be good.

It seems just like any small Nebraska town, quiet, clean and friendly; but in O'Neill there was something else.

"It was known, it's been around for years," said 15-year resident, Daniel Lewis.

Drugs were being bought and sold in their neighbor's home.

"People come and go all the time over there, all hours of the day, so we had our suspicions," said Darrell VanMeter, who shares a backyard with Thad Junge.

"We thought he was just selling a little pot on the side to survive, to live, we didn't know anything about the meth," said Tamzen Forslund, who lives across the street.

They found out early Thursday morning.

"All of a sudden, boom, it just kind of woke me up, thought something exploded," said Forslund.

State Patrol reached a breaking point in their six month long investigation, leading them to a home at 216 East John Street. There, they found guns, methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

"Swat team was over there and there were about six or eight police cars in the street," said Forslund.

"They were over there most of the morning going through stuff his cars and pickups," recalled VanMeter.

Thirty-two year old, Thad Junge and 8 others were arrested. They are all being held for delivery of a controlled substance, in addition Junge faces felony weapons charges.

"Living in the rural areas, your kind of protected and you think you know your neighbors and so when you hear or see something like this happen, it's definitely a surprise," said William Tielke, Holt County Board of Supervisors.

"It's scary living in the same neighborhood as they are and have no idea its going on," said VanMeter.

But Tielke said with local law enforcement and State Patrol working together, they've got a fighting chance.

"Everybody would like to see it gone," said VanMeter.

"I hope they get a lot more of ‘em, get the drug business out of here," said Forslund.

The US Department of Justice released this statement in their 2009 Midwest Drug Report:

The Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) region is a significant transit area for illicit drugs. Its central geographic location is widely used by traffickers who transport methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other illicit drugs into the area from Southwest Border and Northern Border locations en route to midwestern and northeastern markets, including Chicago and New York. Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) dominate wholesale methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana distribution in the HIDTA region. African American, Hispanic, and Caucasian traffickers operate at the midlevel and retail level.

The widespread availability and abuse of methamphetamine and cocaine and associated violence, the local production of methamphetamine, increased Mexican heroin availability and abuse, and controlled prescription drug (CPD) abuse are the most significant drug concerns in the HIDTA region.

The following are significant, strategic drug threat developments in the Midwest HIDTA region:

• Increasing availability of Mexican black tar heroin and brown powder heroin in the HIDTA region during the past year resulted in increased abuse, particularly among young Caucasians in suburban and rural communities, and in smaller markets in Kansas and Missouri, where the drug was not previously available. This situation is expected to result in increased heroin-related treatment admissions and overdoses.

• Mexican methamphetamine shortages were reported in the region during 2009 (mostly in smaller North Dakota markets), while cocaine availability has varied over the past few years. Unstable methamphetamine and cocaine supplies, along with an increasing market share of lower-potency Mexican d,l-methamphetamine (nonephedrinebased), have caused some abusers to switch between methamphetamine and cocaine, based on the availability of both drugs and the potency of methamphetamine. This situation is expected to continue in the near term.

• Law enforcement officials in some areas of the Midwest HIDTA region, such as the Kansas City metropolitan area and North Dakota, report that the distribution and abuse of CPDs (primarily prescription opioids) pose an increasing threat. If abusers are unable to obtain CPDs at a low cost, some may switch to heroin, which is increasingly available and relatively inexpensive.

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