TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Drug enforcement agents say the arms of drug cartels have already reached the heart of East Texas, and there's no telling how deep they go. More than 300 people tied to the violent, "La Familia" Cartel are now behind bars; one third of the arrests were made in Texas. Authorities say the work to keep drugs out of East Texas is far from over. DPS says the dragnet caught more than 80 people across Texas alone including smugglers, dealers, suppliers and distributors.
"It's hard to determine how big is big and bad is bad," said Trooper Jean Dark.
Dark says, where there's a road...
"They will utilize whatever resources they have to move their product," said Dark. "We will utilize our resources in an effort to combat that."
A network of officers, deputies, and agents carried out the largest nationwide drug bust to date. Richard Sanders with the DEA helped round up dozens of suspects in Dallas, Wednesday. His office covers 24 East Texas counties.
"When you say, cartel, they're thinking it's some massive organization," said Sanders.
But, Sanders says branches of the La Familia tree are spreading through East Texas. Agents here seized more than $300,000 in two of their own cases, handing down 45 indictments.
"The courier that was bringing methamphetamine to the organization head has positively been identified as a La Familia member," said Sanders.
Those drugs were distributed into Smith, Henderson, Cherokee, further on into Rusk, Gregg, Upshur, Cass counties, and beyond.
"The drug business is just that: it's a business," said Sanders.
Sanders says drugs bring in more than $65 billion a year. The battle for new territory is already spilling over the border.
"I don't want that in my community," said Sanders. "We shouldn't and we can't tolerate that."
And, the battle continues. DEA officials say there have been about 1,200 arrests over the past 44 months of the nationwide investigation.