All 21 persons were residing in Knoxville at the time of their arrests. They were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, money laundering and gun charges.
Each individual appeared in court before a U.S. Magistrate Judge and entered a plea of not guilty.
All are being held without bond pending trial, which has been set for February 11, 2014 in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.
The first county of the indictment alleges the members of the conspiracy are responsible for distributing in excess of five kilograms of cocaine and more than 280 grams of crack cocaine.
If convicted, each suspect faces a mandatory minimum prison term of 10 years up to life and a fine up to $10 million.
One defendant, Geyser Deleon, is charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. If convicted, he faces a prison term of five years to life, which must be served consecutively with any other prison term. He would also face a fine of up to $250,000.
This indictment is the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Department of Homeland Security – Immigration Customs Enforcement; Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; Alcoa Police Department; Clinton Police Department; Harriman Police Department; Knoxville Police Department; Maryville Police Department; Oak Ridge Police Department; Anderson County Sheriff's Office; Blount County Sheriff's Office; Knox County Sheriff's Department; Loudon County Sheriff's Department; Roane County Sheriff's Department; Fifth Judicial District Drug Task Force; and Ninth Judicial District Drug Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy L. Stone and Brooklyn Sawyers will represent the United States.
Law enforcement's goal is to disrupt and dismantle the criminal enterprise.
"Our intent is to make sure these individuals do not develop a strong hold in our community and destroy the fabric of this community," said FBI Knoxville Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Moore.
Officials say the cocaine likely came from South America through Mexico. Information on the weapons has not yet been released. Moore says the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected.
"Our message today for those who are involved in this activity is simple. You're next," said Moore.