Byrd: International weapons, drug roundup began with Jackson County case (Updated 10 a.m.)

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd told the Sun Herald this morning that an international weapons and drug roundup began with a case from Jackson County that was started by his office.

FBI, ICE and other agencies participated in a lengthy investigation that has resulted in arrests across the country and uncovered ties to a Mexican cartel.

The scheme, Byrd said, included shipping large amounts of marijuana and cocaine to Jackson County and using the proceeds to buy weapons to send back to the cartel.

The investigation, which began in 2009, has led to 21 federal arrests so far. Of the those, 19 have pleaded guilty and the other two are awaiting sentencing. Sentences in the case have ranged from 22 years to 2 years in federal prison. Other arrests are pending.

One of those arrested, Jose Louis Ontiveros, has known ties to a Mexican cartel.

Byrd said it began with information that Harlan Harron was distributing large quantities of marijuana and cocaine on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and was frequenting the U.S. border with Mexico.

Using various residences on the Coast, Byrd said, Herron would receive multiple packages of marijuana shipped from El Paso through the U.S. Postal Service.

More than 20 law enforcement agencies participated in the overall investigation and stretched from El Paso to Miami, including DEA, U.S. Postal Service, ICE, ATF, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, New Mexico state police and numerous local law enforcement agencies in Mississippi.

Sunherald.com will update this story as more details become available.