On Dec. 6, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictments of 35 people in connection with a methamphetamine trafficking ring operated from within the Oklahoma prison system. The charges are the culmination of a 12-month investigation conducted by local, state and federal authorities.

According to authorities, most of the defendants have been taken into custody or were already in Oklahoma prisons or jails for other crimes. The indictments claim that the incarcerated individuals ran the drug ring by using contraband cellphones to give orders to people on the outside. These orders included instructions on where to collect drug shipments, where to store them and when to deliver them to customers. Many of the defendants are allegedly members of the Southside Locos Gang, and the drugs were apparently smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.

During the course of the investigation, authorities reportedly seized over 111 pounds of methamphetamine, approximately 8 pounds of heroin, 216 grams of cocaine, around $200,000 in cash, and 34 firearms. The defendants are facing a variety of charges, including conspiracy to possess and distribute drugs, possession of drugs with the intent to distribute, drug distribution, using a communication device to facilitate drug distribution, and maintaining drug-involved premises. One individual is also charged with possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. If convicted, each defendant could be sentenced to up to life in prison and fined up to $10 million.

A criminal defense attorney may be able to help clients who are facing drug charges avoid conviction or obtain a lighter sentence. For example, in some cases, an attorney might be able to successfully challenge the prosecution’s case and get the charges dropped. Under other circumstances, it might be possible for the attorney to negotiate a plea deal that reduces the charges and penalties.