The United States Department of Justice unsealed a federal indictment involving federal drug crimes with ties to Mexico on Wednesday, August 21. 

So far, 17 have been arrested and 15 of those arrests were in Oklahoma. Two more suspects are on-the-run.

Over a dozen local and state agencies were involved in the operation, which seized more than 16 pounds of heroin. That is the equivalent of about 30,000 individual doses.

After speaking with several district attorneys, it's clear heroin use is on the rise. They said their district task forces played a large role in taking down the drug dealers.

“I am proud of the people on my task force, working with the federal agencies to take down these meth and heroin traffickers,” said District Attorney Allan Grubb, District 23.

The investigation spanned about two years.

Law enforcement agencies also seized three pounds of meth, eight firearms and over $30,000 in cash.

But it's the lives impacted by the alleged drug crimes that concerns the Oklahoma district attorneys. They argue, these are not victimless crimes.

“When you tie it back to the cartels and these Mexican drug organizations, what you see is...They are violent organized crime. By the local person feeding their addiction here, it's actually feeding the violence that goes certainly at the border and even in other countries,” said District Attorney Greg Mashburn, District 21. 

Mashburn added that a trafficking amount of heroin is over 10 grams. That means is someone is caught repeatedly, but has less than that amount, he said, it makes tracing the source and prosecuting more difficult.

The Department of Justice reported that while prescription opioid overdoes death are down, others are on the rise.

“Deaths from heroin in Oklahoma have increased three-fold between 2011-2017,” said United States Attorney Timothy Downing.

He said even when the cases don't turn fatal, heroin continues to crawl deeper into Oklahoma homes.

“In 2017, Oklahoma law enforcement noted 17.5 percent more heroin seizures to OSBI than in 2016,” said Downing.

The possible penalty for the 19 people listed in the indictment include life in prison and a $10 million fine.