Comments Off on Nine more arrested on Meth charges as part of ‘Operation Saddle Up’
Macomb, Ill. — Law enforcement agents, as well as a representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois, announced the arrest of nine individuals at a press conference held Tuesday morning at the Macomb Police Department.

The arrests were made through the ongoing federal program “Operation Saddle Up.” Those arrested are charged with one count each of federal conspiracy to manufacture more than 500 grams of methamphetamine in McDonough County and elsewhere in Illinois. The charges stem from alleged activity from about 2009 to present.

The arrests were made June 18 and all nine defendants were arrested in Fulton County. Fulton County Sheriff Jeff Standard said while everyone indicted is from Fulton County, McDonough County law enforcement was instrumental in bringing that information to the Fulton County authorities.

“As well as doing the federal roundup yesterday, we also had an active meth lab while we were arresting on these federal conspiracy charges,” Standard said. “So they have not quit even when they know these indictments are coming.”

Macomb Police Chief Curt Barker thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its assistance and thanked the officers in the field for building the cases that led to these arrests.

“They put in a lot of hours,” Barker said. “We stand up here, we get credit for the success of this, but it’s really those officers out in the field that are doing the legwork and putting in the hours.”

McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker said while some successes, such as the indictments made over the course of the past year, are measurable, other successes — like the deterrent effect — cannot be measured.

“These federal statutes have teeth,” VanBrooker said. “These people are going away for a long time. There’s a huge deterrent factor that you cannot measure, along with the crimes they would be committing if they were out on the street.”

VanBrooker said burglaries and domestic violence are also factors that sometimes tie into methamphetamine.

Darilynn Knauss, supervisory assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of Illinois, said “Operation Saddle Up” is a U.S. Attorney’s Office initiative that goes back to early 2011. Knauss said at that time, U.S. Attorney James Lewis recognized, upon hearing from local law enforcement, that methamphetamine was a serious problem in west central Illinois.

She added that everyone, from pill buyers, thieves who steal anhydrous from farms, the cooks and dealers are within the gambit of this operation.

Knauss also remarked that through the combined efforts of local and federal law enforcement, as well as local and federal prosecutors, methamphetamine is in the process of being eradicated from communities in west central Illinois.

“The communities where these good citizens work, play and live their daily lives should not have to live with people doing this type of activity,” she said.

Knauss announced “Operation Saddle Up” has been a success. These nine arrests brings the number of arrests made in the tri-county area since 2011 to 50.

“Fifty individuals, in little over a year, have been indicted by a federal grand jury in this district on charges related to methamphetamine manufacture and distribution,” she said. “If you look at the surrounding counties in addition to this tri-county area, our total is around 100 individuals in that same time period, all related to methamphetamine.”

The individuals arrested are: Christopher F. King, 37, of Astoria; Brandon L. Welker, 33, of Astoria; Jeremiah R. Miller, 30, of Table Grove (in custody with Illinois Department of Corrections); Francis L. Williams, 40, of Astoria; Amanda M. Cox, 29, of Astoria; Brandon W. Alford, 37, of Astoria; Nichole R. Westlake, 22, of Astoria; and Arlan M. Cox, 49, of Astoria.

In addition to the methamphetamine conspiracy charges, the indictment also seeks a “personal money judgment” against each defendant for the amount of $75,000, which represents the amount of the net proceeds allegedly obtained as a result of the conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.

In a separate indictment, Homer R. Weishaar, 39, of Browning, was arrested on June 18 and charged with conspiracy to manufacture more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. However the indictment does not seek a personal money judgment against Weishaar.

If convicted the penalty for conspiracy to manufacture 500 grams of methamphetamine is a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, with the possibility of life in prison. If the defendant has a prior felony drug conviction, the mandatory sentence is 20 years, with the possibility of life in prison.



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