More than 50 people arrested in Arkansas drug, gun case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - More than 50 people in northeast Arkansas were arrested on Tuesday on firearms and drug charges in a major federal investigation that lasted a year and a half, U.S. prosecutors said.

From January 2014 through June 2015, local and federal agents coordinated more than 160 purchases of drugs and, or, firearms, taking in more than 19 pounds of methamphetamine and scores of guns, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas said.

The office unsealed 40 federal indictments charging 70 people with drug and gun crimes in the case, it said in a statement. About 20 of those charged are fugitives, it added.

"It has been evident for some time that drugs and guns are overrunning the entire Arkansas Delta in general, and Mississippi County in particular," said Christopher Thyer, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

More than 550 law-enforcement officials were dispatched to execute the arrest warrants, the office said. Those arrested were due to appear in a federal court in Little Rock starting on Thursday.

The charges include conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of crack cocaine and cocaine, and use of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime.

(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)