'Disrupt the supply:' 37 charged in Puerto Rico to Wisconsin drug trafficking case

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul on Thursday, Jan. 16 joined a coalition of law enforcement agencies in announcing details on a large-scale drug bust in Milwaukee. Thirty-seven people have been charged in two drug trafficking busts.

Twenty-six people have been charged with trafficking at least five kilograms of cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl between Puerto Rico and Milwaukee -- which officials are calling "Operation Island Hopper." Eleven others have been charged with heroin and fentanyl trafficking in the Milwaukee area -- which officials are calling "Operation Tire Iron.''

In "Operation Island Hopper" the 26 defendants are accused in a drug-trafficking organization that has been sending multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine through the U.S. Postal Service from Puerto Rico to Milwaukee.

"Drugs that were intended to come into Milwaukee, to be distributed to people who are struggling with substance use disorder, were instead taken off the streets and those drugs weren't sold for illegal gain," Attorney General Kaul said.

On Jan. 15 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers arrested 22 of these defendants.

“This case shows the impact that intensive investigations targeting large-scale drug trafficking can have,” said Attorney General Kaul. “When local, state, and federal investigators work together, as they have in this case, we can disrupt the supply of narcotics to Wisconsin and help people avoid addiction. Thank you to the brave law enforcement professionals at DCI and other agencies who have worked on this case.”


On Wednesday, Jan. 15 officers executed search warrants in both Milwaukee and Puerto Rico resulting in the seizure of approximately 15 kilograms of cocaine, at least 50 grams of heroin, at least 80 grams of crack cocaine, 35 firearms (25 handguns, 8 rifles, 1 fully automatic handgun, and 1 sawed-off shotgun) and approximately $267,000 in U.S. currency.

The 11 people accused in "Operation Tire Iron"  have been charged with conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and 40 grams or more of fentanyl in the Milwaukee area. On Jan. 15,  federal, state, and local law enforcement officers arrested ten of the defendants. Two of the arrested defendants were undocumented aliens from Mexico and subject to immediate removal.

The officers also executed search warrants in Milwaukee resulting in the seizure of approximately 800 grams of black tar heroin, 200 grams of fentanyl, and one firearm.

"The eagles are out the window now. Coming into the DNC and coming into the things that Milwaukee is going to see, being the hottest city in visit in 2020, this is a snapshot to show you the law enforcement community here is going to work together," says Alfonso Morales, Milwaukee police chief.

All agencies agreed, the busts are helping to prevent gun violence and overdose deaths. According to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner, at least 370 people died of overdoses in 2019.


The 26 defendants charged in this law enforcement action, called Operation Island Hopper, are:

    Eleven people charged with heroin and fentanyl trafficking in the Milwaukee area: