WOODSTOCK — An undercover investigation targeting drug trafficking has netted 19 people charged with federal crimes.

The operation culminated earlier this month with the federal indictment of 18 people accused of dealing fentanyl, heroin and/or methamphetamine. Authorities charged a 19th person related to the operation in a separate charging document.

Federal, state and local law enforcement representatives appeared at the Shenandoah County General District Courthouse on Thursday to announce the filing of charges against the 19 people for unlawful distribution of heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted the investigation with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, the RUSH Drug Task Force covering Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, the Northwest Regional Drug and Gang Task Force, the police departments of Front Royal, Mount Jackson, Timberville and Woodstock and the Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Grayson A. Hoffman will prosecute the case.

A federal grand jury in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg returned the sealed, 41-count indictment on Dec. 4, according to information provided by U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen, who provided details about the operation at the media event. The court unsealed the indictment Wednesday.

“Ten defendants who were charged in this indictment were arrested during a massive federal takedown last Friday (Dec. 7),” Cullen said, reading a prepared statement. “That takedown involved 75 federal, state and local law enforcement officers. Thankfully. it was executed successfully and safely for everyone involved.”

Of the people named in the indictment, nine defendants currently in state custody will be transferred to federal custody in the next few days, Cullen said.

“These drug distribution and federal firearms charges are among the most serious possible under federal law,” Cullen said.

Many of the defendants, if convicted and depending on their criminal histories, face up to decades in prison, Cullen added.

The prosecutor credited the agencies involved in the investigation with devoting time and resources to make the investigation a success.

Cullen pointed out that 72,000 people in the United States died from fatal drug overdoses — two-thirds of which involved opiates or opioids. The common opiate is heroin while the common opioid seen in the region is fentanyl, Cullen said.

The prosecutor said this effort marks a step in his office’s efforts to provide more resources to the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

“This region has been underserved by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for far too long and the folks in my office as well as our federal counterparts are committed to having a sustained presence in this part of the region,” Cullen said.

Thomas Chittum III, special agent in charge of the Washington, D.C., division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, spoke about the presence and use of guns by participants in drug trafficking. People involved in illegal drug trafficking often use firearms to intimidate others. They also use firearms as currency, Chittum said.

Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter thanked other participating agencies for their work on the collaborative investigation.

“These indictments and arrests mean the people who we believe have been selling drugs and distributing them locally will now face serious consequences for their actions,” Carter said. “We’re hopeful these indictments will send a message to people that had made those decisions as well as will lead to following charges for other persons that we believe are responsible for narcotics trafficking in our community.”

All defendants charged in the indictment are in either state or federal custody, Cullen said to the media. Most of the people named in the indictment already had been indicted on drug charges in Shenandoah County Circuit Court. Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley said at the event that her office has and will continue to file motions in court to dismiss local charges against the defendants and hand over the cases to federal authorities.

When asked about the origin of the firearms seized in the investigation, and whether or not the suspects obtained the guns legally, Cullen said he couldn’t speak specifically about evidence gathered by authorities that likely would come out as the case moves forward in the federal court. Chittum said the ATF would continue to investigate the origin of the firearms seized in the investigation.

Agents recovered approximately 30 firearms in the operation, mostly long guns such as rifles and shotguns as well as handguns, Chittum said.

The indictment alleges that certain members of the conspiracy trafficked more than 1,000 grams of heroin — 2.2 pounds — and more than 500 grams of methamphetamine from about January 2016 to this month.

Authorities accused one defendant, Brandon Wayne Eppard, with maintaining a property on Shenandoah Street in Mount Jackson for the purpose of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance, according to a media release from the U.S. attorney’s office.

In a separate action related to the investigation, authorities charged Merle Stephens in a federal criminal complaint with one count of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of use of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

The indictment also charges Michael Mullins, Jeffrey Craig Mays, William Ray Shoemaker and Christopher Thomas Trimble with firearms offenses in addition to their other counts.

Federal authorities also filed with the indictment a notice of forfeiture related to the case. The notice indicates that, upon conviction of one or more of the felony offenses in the indictment, defendants shall forfeit to federal authorities an undetermined amount of cash and related proceeds as well as property obtained as a result of the offenses. The notice identifies eight firearms seized by authorities as property included in the forfeiture.

Those charged were:

Anthony Benjamin Testerman, 25, of Mount Jackson: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and one count of possession with the intent to distribute fentanyl.

William Ray Shoemaker, 45, of Edinburg: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, three counts of distributing and possession with the intent to distribute, methamphetamine, and one count of felon in possession of a firearm.

Jeffrey Craig Mays, 32, of Mount Jackson: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine and one count of using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

Katie L. Harlow, 37, Mount Jackson: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and three counts of distribution of methamphetamine.

Javon Eugene Cook, 26, of Mount Jackson: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, one count of felon in possession of a firearm, one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, one count of distribution of methamphetamine, and one count of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Brooke McIntosh, 27, Timberville: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine

Jonathan Lewis Hodges, 30, of New Market: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and one count of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute, methamphetamine.

Kenneth J. Webb, 32, of Woodstock: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and three counts of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute, methamphetamine.

Amanda Jean Mullins, 30, of Edinburg: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and two counts of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute, methamphetamine.

Michael Mullins, 32: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, one count of felon in possession of a firearm, one count of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, and one count of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute fentanyl.

Dietrich M. Day, 28, of Dumfries: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and one count of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute fentanyl.

Christian Michael Burhop, 27, of Basye: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, three counts of distribution of heroin, one count of distribution of methamphetamine, and one count of distribution of cocaine, heroin and fentanyl.

Christopher Thomas Trimble, 27, of Fishersville: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and one count of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Brandon Wayne Eppard, 28, of Mount Jackson: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and one count of maintaining a premises for the purpose of unlawfully distributing, possessing, and using controlled substances.

Tiffany Bowman Lopez, 30, Quicksburg: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, two counts of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute heroin and four counts of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl.

Erica Lam, one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine.

Justin Tyler Mumaw, 26, of Edinburg: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and two counts of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Dana Marie Silvious, 29, Front Royal: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, two counts of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute fentanyl, and one count of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute heroin.

Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com