Tioga County Drug Bust

By Kiersten Mathieu

July 22, 2010 Updated Nov 9, 2006 at 8:26 PM EDT

"Owego's like the Bermuda Triangle. If you're dealing drugs and you go to Owego, you disappear," says Tioga County Sheriff Gary Howard.

These are just some of the people arrested during Operation Lightning Strike.

Led by the Tioga County Sheriff's Office, the 5 month long operation aimed at hammering out methamphetamine labs.

But the investigation quickly uncovered other illegal drug activity, leading into bordering counties and states.

"You start making these contacts. And they take you out of the area," says Howard.

56 people were arrested on charges involving crack cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and guns.

Seized items totaled a street value of nearly half a million dollars.

And more than half of those suspects were allegedly dealing in Tioga County and will be tried in Tioga County Court.

"We do look forward to working with them in the successful prosecution of these cases," says Tioga County District Attorney Gerald Keene.

As for the targeted meth labs.

Just two were found, but not in Tioga County.

One of those meth labs were found on King Street in the Town of Barker.

Two people were arrested inside the home and the Broome County Sheriff's Office is handling the case.

The other lab was in Pennsylvania.

"I was really surprised. I thought we'd have at least picked up a few labs," says Howard.

The Tioga County Sheriff's Office says even though meth is down, any other drug use will be stopped.

"Come here. And we're going to get you. And we're going to take you away," says Howard.

Which is what some of these suspects are learning.

Tioga County is like the Bermuda Triangle for drug use.

Agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York State Police and other local police departments helped in Operation Lightning Strike.

A dozen suspects are expected to be indicted by a Tioga County Grand Jury next week.

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