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21 in Milwaukee area face federal charges for alleged drug trafficking

Chuck Quirmbach

Wisconsin Public Radio

Twenty-one people in the Milwaukee area face federal charges related to the trafficking of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Federal officials allege the defendants brought in and distributed multiple kilograms of the illegal drugs. Law enforcement says the drugs were often hidden in vehicles loaded onto commercial auto carriers that were driven to the Midwest from California. Robert Bell, of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the arrests come during a rise in drug-related deaths.

"The leading cause of injury-related (deaths) in the United States, Wisconsin and the Milwaukee area is drug overdoses. Attacking heroin, fentanyl, meth and cocaine trafficking organizations to save lives is priority No. 1 for the Drug Enforcement Administration," Bell said at a Tuesday news conference at the federal courthouse in Milwaukee.

Bell said lab tests are still needed to see if the seized heroin had been laced with the powerful opiate fentanyl. Law enforcement also say when 19 arrests were made Tuesday — 18 in the Milwaukee area and one in California — $800,000 and several weapons, including an assault rifle, were also confiscated. As of Tuesday evening, two people were still on the run.

Authorities say the investigation began a couple years ago.

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