Viroqua, WI (WXOW) Police say you can buy heroin in the Coulee Region on any given day or night. In fact, it's such a problem, the federal government funds a local task force dedicated to arresting drug dealers and users. The West Central Metropolitan Enforcement Group, or MEG Unit, works with law enforcement agencies in La Crosse, Vernon, Monroe, Jackson.. and Trempealeau counties. The MEG Unit allowed News 19's Amy DuPont exclusive access to a heroin investigation. Amy takes us undercover in Vernon County.
Narcotics officers say the local drug trade is like a house of cards. Make the right arrest and the entire operation comes crashing down. Investigators in Vernon county hope this man can help them deal the first blow. He was arrested for buying heroin. Rather than go to jail, he agreed to work with police as a confidential informant. Armed with an undercover camera and police money investigators ask him to buy heroin from 22-year old Zachary George.
"This is a kid who was a good athlete in high school not that long ago. The death of a family member, he just resorted to drugs as a painkiller." says Lt. Jaden McCullick.
Officers believe George is an entry level dealer. But; if they can arrest him, he may give them the information then need to arrest his supplier and slow down the distribution of heroin in Western Wisconsin.
This is the video the informant captured inside George's apartment. Police say that's George packaging the drugs. The informant bought 3-points of heroin, enough to get high 3 times, for just 50-bucks. With this evidence investigators have what they need to make an arrest, but they let George walk. They plan to buy heroin from him one more time, So when they do arrest him, they can charge him with multiple crimes.
A week later investigators decide its time to take him down. "We got information the target re-uped. He's basically received more heroin to start to distribute. So, the investigators decided how was a good time to go in and get the search warrant and make the arrest.", says MEG Unit leader Tom Johnson.
A team of seven officer surround George's apartment building. Then slowly and quietly make their way to his front door. Officers breached the door and take George into custody. They searched his room for more than an hour, but didn't find *any* heroin.
"They found the suspect in the bathroom dumping what we believe to be the heroin and whatever other drugs he had down the toilet. The toilet was flushing as officers hit the door."
Investigators did find what they describe as the materials used to distribute heroin and other drugs like a scale and the bags heroin is often sold in. With that evidence, and heroin and video tape they collected earlier, officers have enough to place Zachary George under arrest.
The sheriff's department arrested Zachary George for the delivery of a controlled substance and conspiracy to deliver heroin. He spent the night in jail and was then released the following day on a signature bond. Vernon County district attorney Tim Gaskell plans to charge George with several felonies at the end of this month when all of the police reports are finished.