The largest undercover drug investigation in Centralia history ended with the arrests of 38 people early Tuesday.
The two-year investigation, a joint operation led by the East Central Drug Task Force and Centralia Police Department, resulted in warrants for the arrest of 58 people, all for suspicion of distribution, delivery and possession of various controlled substances. Twenty people were still at large Wednesday afternoon.
“Officers spent countless hours infiltrating known and suspected drug dealers,” Centralia Police Chief Sam Hartsell said in a news release. Undercover officers spent about $5,000 to purchase marijuana, Ecstasy, cocaine, crack cocaine, psilocyn mushrooms and numerous controlled and prescribed narcotics, including Vicodin, Xanax and OxyContin.
The majority of the investigation was conducted in Centralia but also encompassed Columbia, Hallsville and Mexico and Paris, Mo., Hartsell said in the release.
Among the 38 people arrested were two Columbia men: Chad A. Hester, 33, who was being held on $129,500 bond Wednesday on charges of second-degree drug trafficking, resisting arrest and three counts of distribution, delivery or intent to deliver, manufacturing or production of a controlled substance; and Travis D. Roberts, 30, who posted a $24,500 bond on two counts of distribution, delivery or intent to deliver, manufacturing or production of a controlled substance, and felony possession of a controlled substance, according to Missouri Case.net.
Several agencies assisted the East Central Drug Task Force and Centralia Police in the arrests, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Control, and the Boone and Audrain county sheriff’s departments.
Anyone with information should contact the task force at 573-473-5800, ext. 330; Audrain County Crime Stoppers at 800-392-TIPS(8477); or the Missouri State Highway Patrol at 573-751-1000 or 888-823-METH(6384).