An investigation that began last August into two major heroin distribution groups operating in Nashville led to a major bust last week.
Authorities seized eight pounds of heroin, more than $80,000 in cash, 12 vehicles and arrested 10 people. The heroin itself was worth nearly $400,000 total.
Both heroin organizations are based in Mexico. Dispatchers in Mexico with 615 area code phone numbers took orders from prospective buyers and arranged for drivers in Nashville to meet customers in parking lots throughout the city.
The arrests began last Wednesday with Noah Lepisto, 26, and David Hummel, 28, both of Nashville, for delivering and selling heroin.
Tuesday, information received over the last few months led to a search warrant being executed at a home on Enclave Circle in south Nashville near Brentwood.
The home belongs to Keaton Elwell, 28. Police said a significant amount of heroin, one gun and money were recovered.
Elwell was charged with possession of heroin for resale, selling heroin and unlawful gun possession.
Tuesday night, 40-year-old Edward Hunter of Madison was arrested after meeting two people inside a local mall and allegedly accepting their cash for two pounds of heroin. Both the drugs and cash were seized.
A later search of Hunter’s home also revealed more cash. He is charged with engaging in heroin conspiracy and possession of heroin for resale.
Wednesday morning, detectives arrested several members of both organizations as they attempted to distribute heroin in various public parking lots.
Members of one group, Pedro Perez, 19, Fredy Barrios, 25, Joe Arellano, 21, and Daniel Dodson, 39, were taken into custody in a grocery store parking lot on Lebanon Pike in Hermitage.
Large quantities of cash and heroin were later seized from Barrios’ home, police said.
Members of the second group, Phillip Anciani, 48, and Roberto Bogarin, 40, were taken into custody in a parking lot at Murfreesboro Pike and Thompson Lane as they were in the process of selling heroin.
Detectives believe both men have been distributing heroin in the area for more than two months throughout south Nashville and Brentwood.
Authorities said their base operation was at a motel where more than two pounds of heroin and cash were seized.
Law enforcement and state officials said Thursday they believe the illegal drug once popular in the 1960s and 70s is making a comeback in Tennessee.
E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said he is both “shocked” and “saddened” to learn of the major heroin bust in Nashville.
Varney has traveling throughout the state all year addressing the Prescription Drug Abuse epidemic which is the No. 1 drug problem in the state and how it’s also linked to the resurgence of heroin statewide.
Health experts say heroin has become the cheaper alternative to the more costly and the increasingly harder-to-come-by pain pills.
“We’re really going to try and interdict these drugs on the front end we’re really committed in our department to help people deal with their addiction,” said Varney.