Criminal Justice News

Friday, October 21, 2016

Northeast Arkansas Roundup Results in 11 Arrests in Methamphetamine Trafficking Ring



LITTLE ROCK—Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas; along with Matthew Barden, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Little Rock District Office; and Jeffrey B. Reed, Resident Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), Little Rock Field Office, announced today the unsealing of a multiple-count indictment charging 13 defendants in northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri with multiple drug and weapons charges.

An investigation into a large-scale drug trafficking organization based in Blytheville resulted in the early-morning arrests of 11 of the 13 defendants on charges involving conspiracy to distribute and distribution of methamphetamine and weapons possession. Six defendants were arrested in the Blytheville and one in Jonesboro, while two were arrested in Missouri towns (Malden and Steele) near Arkansas. Two others were served arrest warrants while incarcerated in the Dunklin County, Missouri, jail. Two of the indicted individuals, Brad Vernon and Joseph Riley, are still at large.

The defendants arrested today will remain in custody and have initial appearances before United States Magistrate Judge Joe. J. Volpe on Thursday.

"We remain resolute in our continuing effort to help the people of northeast Arkansas, and the Delta in general, combat the plague of methamphetamine and gun violence," Thyer said. "If the drugs dealers won’t go away, neither will we. While past law enforcement operations have slowed the drug trade in northeast Arkansas, now we have people from neighboring states coming into Blytheville to purchase large quantities of meth. Today’s operation, the culmination of a combined, cooperative effort from multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies, makes clear we will not permit this behavior to go unchecked and unpunished."

Some of the co-conspirators arrested today have been known to law enforcement for several years, dating back to previous drug investigations in Blytheville. This joint DEA-ATF investigation began in mid-2015, with a series of smaller controlled purchases of methamphetamine from targets in Missouri. Eventually, as law enforcement informants increased the amounts of methamphetamine they purchased, these targets brought the informants to their main meth suppliers in Blytheville to buy larger amounts, up to quarter-pounds at a time.

All told, law enforcement directly purchased more than one kilogram (1000 grams) of methamphetamine from the Arther James and Robert Brown drug-trafficking organization (DTO) in 17 controlled purchases. The entire conspiracy involves multiple kilograms of methamphetamine. In addition, agents seized nine firearms from James, Brown, and Antonio McNichols, all of whom are convicted felons. Five of the firearms were seized during the Tuesday morning arrests, while four others were seized during search warrants conducted during the investigation.

"Today’s arrests demonstrate DEA’s relentless effort to reduce violent crime and rid our streets of criminal drug trafficking organizations," Barden said. "In conjunction with our federal, state and local partners, we continue to work together to end the scourge of drugs and violence that erode the quality of life in our neighborhoods. These arrests send a clear message that our community will not tolerate the heinous activity perpetrated by drug traffickers and shows our commitment to work together to dismantle violent street gangs."

The indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury on October 6, 2016. The indictment charges 13 defendants in 28 separate counts. The counts include conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine, felon in possession of firearms, and the use of a telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking crime. If convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine, defendants will face a sentence of not less than 10 years to life imprisonment.

"The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms& Explosives Little Rock Field Office, Cape Girardeau Field Office and the DEA Little Rock Field Office worked jointly with the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Office and the Second Judicial District Drug Task Force in an extensive investigation to thwart a drug-trafficking organization in the Mississippi County area of Arkansas," Reed said. "This joint investigation led to the arrest of several offenders to create a safer environment for the communities of northeast Arkansas."

The investigation was jointly led by the DEA and ATF, with cooperation and additional assistance from the Second Judicial District Drug Task Force, the Blytheville Police Department, the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department, the Osceola Police

Department, and the Arkansas Highway Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Chris Givens.

An indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

# # #

JAMES/BROWN DTO INDICTMENT DEFENDANTS

    Arther Lionel JAMES, 38, Blytheville (arrested in Blytheville)
    Brad VERNON, 34, Gosnell (fugitive)
    Adam BAILEY, 35, Kennett, MO (incarcerated in Dunklin, Co., MO, Jail)
    Angeleke BLANKENSHIP, 43, Kennett, MO (arrested in Malden, MO)
    Antonio BRODIE, Blytheville (arrested in Jonesboro)
    Justin BUYS, 31, Blytheville (incarcerated in Dunklin, Co., MO, Jail)
    Heath FOWLER, 40, Blytheville (arrested in Blytheville)
    Keith KEYS, 49, Blytheville (arrested in Blytheville)
    Antonio McNICHOLS, 46, Blytheville (arrested in Blytheville)
    Lewis MILES, 45, Blytheville (arrested in Blytheville)
    Joseph RILEY, 30, Blytheville (fugitive)
    Robert Lamont BROWN, 39, Blytheville (arrested in Blytheville)
    Steven THOMAS, 31, Steele, MO (arrested in Steele, MO)

STATUTORY SENTENCES

Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine is punishable by not less than 10 years, not more than life, incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $10,000,000, and not less than 5 years supervised release.

Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute more than 50 grams but less than 500 grams of methamphetamine is punishable by not less than 5 years, not more than 40 years’ incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $5,000,000, and not less than 4 years supervised release.

Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute less than 50 grams of methamphetamine is punishable by not more than 20 years’ incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $1,000,000, and not less than 3 years supervised release.

Distribution of 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine is punishable by not less than 10 years, not more than life, incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $10,000,000, and not less than 5 years supervised release.

Distribution of 5 grams or more of actual methamphetamine is punishable by not less than 5 years, not more than 40 years’ incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $5,000,000, and not less than 4 years supervised release.

Distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine mixture is punishable by not less than 5 years, not more than 40 years’ incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $5,000,000, and not less than 4 years supervised release.

Distribution of a mixture containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine is punishable by not more than 20 years’ incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $1,000,000, and not less than 3 years supervised release.

Possession of a firearm by a felon is punishable by not more than 10 years’ incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $250,000, and not more than 3 years supervised release.

Use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug trafficking crime is punishable by not more than 4 years’ incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons with a possible fine of up to $250,000, and not more than 1 year supervised release.

No comments: