Sheriff: Massive St. John Xanax ring funded by digital currency

Published: Jan. 19, 2016 at 10:16 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2016 at 10:50 PM CST
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LAPLACE, LA (WVUE) - The feds have been called in to help out with one of the biggest drug seizures in St. John Parish history after 11 people were arrested, the Sheriff's Office announced Tuesday. Authorities are also investigating the use of a digitally created currency, called bit coin, by the dealers.

The Sheriff's Office had bags of pills on display as they announced the bust.

"If consumed with alcohol, it can have a lethal effect," Sheriff Mike Tregre said.

St. John deputies seized $1 million worth of Xanax after a two-week investigation that focused on known drug offender Matt Helms, 23.

"What you see before you is only half the amount of Xanax seized," Tregre said. "The other half is at the State Police crime lab."

Helms was arrested Jan. 5 on Laplace's Oak Fern Court, where police found 100,000 Xanax pills. And it wasn't his first time.

"Mathew Helms does have a previous history with the narcotics division," said Lt. Tanner Mangano, who heads the St. John sheriff's narcotics unit.

Also arrested was 26-year-old Megan De St. Germaine. Deputies executed another search warrant on the home of 24-year-old Brandon Zar. There they recovered more than 10,000 Xanax, and the investigation led to eight more arrests. All of the suspects are charged with possession with intent to distribute,

But it's not just the quantity of the drugs. Authorities are also concerned about the method of payment - something they've never seen before.

"They were using electronic transactions for their records called bit coins, and we are learning more about how they did transactions," Tregre said.

Brandon Zar, was released on a $51,000 bond, in spite of being arrested five times in the past five years. Mathew Helms is still in custody on a $311,000 bond.

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