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COLUMBUS, Ind. — Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced the dismantling of a major drug trafficking ring in Bartholomew County.

The three-year operation, which was dubbed “Operation Columbus Day,” resulted in 36 people being indicted on federal charges along with another 23 charged by the county prosecutor.

The case dates back to 2018 when police intercepted multiple packages of drugs being mailed from California to a Columbus home on Westenedge Drive.

Photo of drugs seized in 2018.

Police seized a quarter million dollars worth of meth in what turned out to be the beginning of an investigation that would break records in Bartholomew County.

“This is the largest drug investigation in the history of the sheriff’s office and the police. This has not happened before in this county,” said Bartholomew County Sheriff Matthew Myers.

Sheriff Myers says over the last three years, investigators seized 115 illegal firearms, 4 lbs of heroin and fentanyl and nearly 114 lbs of meth.

Photo of some of the guns seized in Operation Columbus Day.

“The meth we seized in this investigation would be enough to provide a dose for every citizen in Columbus. It’s an incredible job to get that stuff off the street,” said Mike Gannon, DEA assistant special agent in charge.

According to court records, Jorge Chavez and the Chavez family used the post office and other means to import drugs to Seymour and Columbus.

Because drug dealing often leads to violence, the drug fight remains a top priority for Columbus police. Local and federal officials insist the streets of Columbus are safer now than they were before this bust took place.

“In our community, drugs are an issue. 80 or 90% of the crime we respond to relates back to drugs one way or another,” said Columbus Police Chief Mike Richardson.

As one of the alleged ring leaders, Jorge Chavez was arrested, convicted and sentenced to more than 22 years behind bars.

Booking photo of Jorge Chavez.

Prosecutors hope this serves as a warning to other would-be drug dealers.

“This is not a good time to be a drug dealer anywhere in central Indiana,” said Myers. “We’ve got the resources, and we’re coming to get you. It’s only a matter of time.”

Because the investigation has gone on for a couple of years, 25 suspects have already been convicted and sentenced in federal court.