A federal meth investigation first reported earlier this month has resulted in the indictment of 12 area people, all of whom could be sent to prison for life.
The yearlong investigation resulted in several Thanksgiving Day arrests and the recovery of what officials say was possibly more than 10 pounds of meth and more than $150,000.
The 12 are charged with a variety of three different drug crimes, but all face the most serious charge of conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and a minimum sentence of 10 years.
The defendants include Kenneth R. Friend, 44; Kenna M. Harmon, 36; Eric M. McClanahan, 35; Nelson “Diego” Olmeda; 24; Anthony J. Van Pelt, 36; Anthony M. Massoni, 41; Anthony A. Hatfield; 31; Cheryl D. Paluczak, 47; Melody W. Carpenter, 32; Bonnie L. Amodio, 29; Donette C. Davis, 41; and Joseph R. Allen, 40.
Don Ledford, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Missouri, said he could not speak specifically about the case due to legal and ethical restrictions, but said an indictment with 12 defendants is a significant, though not unusual, size of case for the office.
He said federal drug cases tend to have many defendants because they don’t investigate “street-level drug dealers,” but rather drug organizations.
The complaint, filed before a grand jury indicted the suspects, said agents used wiretaps to intercept phone calls and text messages discussing drug transactions.
According to the complaint, the first interaction with a suspect came on Nov. 3, when officers arrested Carpenter with 4 ounces of meth, paraphernalia and a loaded automatic pistol. Soon after, on Nov. 6, agents intercepted a planned transaction between Friend and McClanahan. Highway Patrol officers stopped McClanahan’s truck, searched it and found 2 pounds of meth, documents say.
The bulk of the arrests, however, occurred on Nov. 27, when officers arrested Friend and Harmon as the two were allegedly planning to meet each other for a sale.
The indictment includes fewer details, but does outline amounts of money and vehicles recovered which investigators believe were either obtained via drug sales or used to facilitate sales.
Between six forfeiture allegations in the indictment, officials are trying to obtain approximately $170,000, nine vehicles and a property in Halfway. If the defendants are ordered to forfeit that property, a percentage would go to the agencies involved in the investigation, for use in purchasing equipment or vehicles.