Three Arrested In Florence, Allegedly Tied To National Drug Ring

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FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) - State, local and federal authorities searched a home in Florence on Tuesday morning and arrested three people they say are connected to a national drug ring.

Just before 8 a.m. S.W.A.T. team members entered the home on East Lee Avenue, securing it for federal agents.

The search was part of a major drug conspiracy in six states - Alabama, New York, New Jersey, California, Tennessee and Rhode Island.  In all, 32 were arrested in these states today and agents are working to make more arrests.  The effort is called 'Operation Stone Dragon'.

Three people were arrested in Florence -- Denise Ragland, 51, Norris Patterson, 27 and Oakley Simpson, 40. Each is charged with marijuana conspiracy.  They will appear before a U.S. Magistrate to face charges.

The arrests are connected to a Chinese marijuana and contraband cigarette trafficking organization that operated throughout the U.S.  Those involved allegedly conspired to make and distribute over $45 million worth of marijuana and to illegally distribute nearly 44 million cigarettes.

The effort was coordinated by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Agents also impounded five vehicles at the home in Florence.

The agencies at the scene include Homeland Security, I.C.E., Florence Police, the S.W.A.T. team and Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office.

Several law enforcement agencies are at a home on East Lee Avenue in Florence. (Photo: Carter Watkins, WHNT News 19)

Several law enforcement agencies searched a home on East Lee Avenue in Florence on Tuesday.  They arrested three people allegedly tied to a national drug ring. (Photo: Carter Watkins, WHNT News 19)