Following a five-month long undercover investigation, more than 125 state and local law enforcement officers gathered in Shawnee early Wednesday morning and set out a massive raid with 39 arrest warrants and 14 search warrants in hand.
By early evening, 37 suspects were in custody, including two high-level targets from Shawnee, while four pounds of methamphetamine had been seized and an estimated $70,000 in cash had been confiscated, said Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon.
“We have two high-level targets that have been bringing in and purchasing — in the past month — up to 16 pounds of methamphetamine that have been brought in to the Pottawatomie County, Shawnee and Tecumseh area,” Smothermon said. “This was an unbelievable, great cooperative effort between all these agencies and us,” he said, adding the raids also involved two high-level targets that could only be described as “members of a cartel.”
“We have dismantled a major, major source of methamphetamine,” said Darrell Weaver, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. “Make no mistake about it, this made a profound impact on the drug trade.”
Names weren’t being released for all those arrested Wednesday, but two of Shawnee’s top targets in custody were Linda Ellis, 48, and Steven Faulkner, 53, Smothermon said, as they were allegedly taking about $30,000 to Oklahoma City every other day to purchase two pounds methamphetamine product. Formal charges have not been filed.
Weaver, who said two pounds every other day in this area, is an “incredible amount,” said in his 25 years, this is one of the largest drug busts he’s been involved with in a rural setting in Oklahoma.
Smothermon said Ellis was arrested in Shawnee, while Faulkner was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Duncan.
Nine of those arrested were taken into custody at one location at a residence in the area of U.S. 177 and Leo in Shawnee, authorities said, and several were arrested at a home on North Broadway. Another raid occurred at a home across the street from Tecumseh High School.
The drug investigation involved at least six pounds of methamphetamine being brought to the Shawnee and Tecumseh areas each week. Smothermon, who said a pound of meth would normally net about 900 doses of the drug, said the drugs in this case were uncut and therefore one pound becomes three, meaning each pound of meth had about 2,700 doses.
Back in February, authorities identified a large group of individuals bringing significant quantities of Mexican-produced methamphetamine into central Oklahoma for distribution. The shipments would come in, be divided and then resold in several communities, including Shawnee, Tecumseh and Oklahoma City.
For Wednesday’s sweep, a command post was set up in Shawnee, then the majority of the warrants were executed simultaneously by teams in Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties, with the raids and arrests shutting down a large Mexican methamphetamine supply line into central Oklahoma. Overall, the operation was a multi-county endeavor.
Page 2 of 2 - Local authorities, including Shawnee police, Pottawatomie County sheriff’s deputies and local drug task force agents, have been among the many investigating the case. They, along with officers from numerous agencies, including the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, agents with the District 22, 23 and 24 drug task forces, Tecumseh police, Lincoln County sheriff’ deputies and officers, Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal police and U.S. Marshals, participated in the morning raids. Two National Guard helicopters also were part of the operation.
“This is a significant dismantling of a major ring of violators who have made economic gain by peddling their hideous drugs,” Weaver said. “These major cases can only be made by cooperative efforts and partnerships like we have with District Attorney Richard Smothermon’s drug task force and other local departments.”
Weaver, who went with one of the raid teams to a Shawnee location, said a small business owner across the street from the house came out and told police, “It’s about time,” as drug activity had been ongoing there some time.
The casework that began in February included wire intercepts in what Weaver called a “robust” investigation. The investigation has included tips and traffic stops, while authorities also conducted around-the-clock surveillance over the past month.
That part of the investigation required unbelievable manpower to identify persons and where they live, which all led to the success of Wednesday’s operation, Weaver said.
Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth said working together with all the agencies and having the outside help makes a great impact in this type of operation.
Shawnee Police Chief Russell Frantz thanked all of the law enforcement agencies that worked this case.
“I’m very proud of our officers,” Frantz said.
With trends of methamphetamine being a problem in cities and rural areas, “We proved today that justice does not have borders,” Smothermon said, adding “People will have no place to buy drugs tonight.”
All of the arrests occurred without incident and the suspects were arrested and taken to a staging area set up within the command post at the then-closed Gordon Cooper Technology Center, where a large makeshift book-in area was created as detention officers from the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center processed each prisoner. From there, the suspects were transferred to be booked into the jail on various charges including conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine.
Smothermon’s office will be considering formal charges for those involved in this case.
Watch for updates.