Investigations by Central Wisconsin Narcotics Drug Task Force have state, nationwide impact

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Whether it’s the 15 ounces of meth that detectives with the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office picked up Monday night or the major meth trafficking ring they broke open last week in Wausau, the Central Wisconsin Narcotics Task Force has both a state and nationwide impact, Sheriff Scott Parks says.

Task force mural wall at Marathon County Sheriff's Office, Oct. 8, 2019 (WSAW Photo)

Led by the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office, the team is barely a year old—it was formed last year—but because the force includes both state and federal team members, their jurisdiction effectively has no boundaries.

“We take the investigations across county lines, across state lines, and sometimes across national lines,” Captain Greg Bean of the Investigative Division, and commander of the task force, explained. Due to the ongoing nature of drug cases, they can’t divulge specific states where their work has had an impact or helped other investigations—many of which are still active and evolving. That’s pretty standard to drug investigations, Sheriff Parks explained; there’s still more work to be done even in the long-term case made public last week that saw 16 people charged with local, state and federal drug-related crimes.

“There’s always a part of that organization still doing the crime,” Bean noted of drug organizations after leaders are put behind bars. “There’s always a little piece that’s being done not only locally but within the state and nationally.”

In Wausau, where I-39 and Highway 51 intersect, the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit was tired of watching repeat drug offenders get short sentences, leave prison, and keep dealing. The task force was founded last year to get to the top of the drug problem, after the federal government approached the MCSO about assigning a special agent to their team. While they receive some federal dollars through the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a result of their involvement, the team primarily stands alone in funding.

“The goal of the task force is to identify organizational hierarchy,” Parks said. “You can deal with street dealers all you want, but street dealers don’t make an impact on shutting down organizations. We identify organizations of criminal offenders and take them into custody.”

“Since the task force was created, we now have the opportunity and authority to go beyond our borders, and not only disrupt it locally but disrupt it at the hierarchy of these organizations,” Bean noted.

The task force includes local members of law enforcement including the Wausau Police Department, Everest Metro Police Department, and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. But it also includes members of the state Department of Justice, an intelligence analyst from the National Guard, and a dedicated FBI special agent—taking the force to a federal jurisdiction.

“With that, we can touch anywhere within the state of Wisconsin, anywhere across the nation, because we have authority everywhere,” Parks noted.

The meth bust last week, which involved 13 people from Wausau, is just an example of several big cases the task force has been able to investigate. “I feel we’ve seen an impact already just from this one investigation,” Bean said, as well as other investigations from the past two to three years. The group, which court documents say was investigated using surveillance, covert cameras and wiretaps, was caught multiple times bringing half-pounds or pounds of meth over the course of the investigation. A pound of meth can have a street value of up to $40,000, Parks told NewsChannel 7, once it is packaged into grams for resale on the streets.

But while the CWNTF’s work reaches across the state and the country, for one former Wausau police officer, it was about cleaning up her community.

“She was a wealth of knowledge, a wealth of expertise,” Bean reflected.

The officer, who we are not yet identifying by name due to an inability to communicate with her prior to publishing this story, was a retired Wausau police senior investigator. She came to the task force following her retirement, Parks said, taking a cut in pay just to work on the meth trafficking ring case for the past year—the same one publicized last week.

“She was a huge impact on the resolution of this case,” Bean said. For Bean, it’s an example of the community involvement that makes the task force a success—something that is returned back into the community when they’re able to continue getting more illegal substances off the streets.