A joint investigation led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Kentucky State Police and Williamsburg police has culminated in the indictment of 28 people in connection with an alleged large-scale methamphetamine-involved conspiracy in the Canadatown community of Whitley County.
Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird admits that in most drug round-ups, he doesn’t think the round-up puts much of a dent in the drug problem, but he said this case is an exception.
“We are taking 28 individuals out of that community that were manufacturing methamphetamine,” Bird noted. “I think we put a serious dent in meth manufacturing in the Canadatown community.”
Lisa Canada Ball, 49; James Russell Bennett, 39; Bobby Darrell Canada II, 26; Wendell Ralph Canada, 31; Ryan David Carlson, 36; Anna M. Davis, 24; David Allen Davis, 29; Aaron David Ellison, 35; Jamie Mark Gibson, 41; Robert Joe Gibson, 23; William Joseph Helbig Jr., 36; George Thomas Hubbard, 49; James Forest Manning, 35; Michelle Lynn Manning, 33; Wayne Carl Marcus, 32; Daniel John Moeser, 44; Mark A. Morrow, 46; Harrison B. Sulfridge, 33; Jerry Wayne White, 36; Joanna Cansler, 55; Teanna Marie Cansler, 33; Robert Martin Church, 27; Danny Lee Fyffe, 49; Suzann Judy Phillips, 49; Billy Ray Richardson, 35; Anthony Levi Rose, 32; Jason Wade Taylor, 31; and Beverly Wilson, 28; were all indicted in U.S. District Court on July 25 and the indictment was unsealed Monday.
The 28 allegedly conspired together with others to knowingly and intentionally manufacture 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, according to their indictment.
If convicted, the defendants each face no less than 10 years in federal prison and possibly a sentence of up lifetime imprisonment, in addition to a $10 million fine and not less than five years of supervised release.
If any of the 28 people have prior felony drug convictions, their minimum sentence would be 20 years behind bars.
Over a two-year period, the group is accused of “cooking” or making methamphetamine or conspiring to make methamphetamine at 21 different locations most of which were in the Canadatown area, Bird said.
The indictment targeted not only those manufacturing the meth, but also those supplying the ingredients used to make it.
19 of the defendants are accused of manufacturing methamphetamine.
Nine others are accused of aiding in the conspiracy or “smurfing” as law enforcement officials refer to it.
Bird described “smurfs” as usually drug users, who shop for meth cooks buying pseudoephedrine, batteries, and other items used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
In exchange for purchasing the items, once the meth cook completes a batch of meth, then the “smurf” gets a portion of the finished product, Bird said.
“A lot of these individuals who have been arrested, a lot of them are multiple felony offenders,” Bird said. “We’re not just talking meth cooks here, we’re talking robberies, assaults, burglaries, thefts that community has been plagued with all that.”
While 20 of the defendants were already in custody on various charges, authorities from the Williamsburg Police Department, ATF, Kentucky State Police, U.S. Marshal’s Service and others hit the streets early Monday morning searching for the remaining eight defendants.
Before dawn Monday, police arrested Carlson, Jamie Gibson, and Sulfridge.
Later that morning authorities arrested Phillips, Hubbard, Davis, Helbig and Bennett.
While allegations in the indictment date back nearly two and one-half years, police say the investigation gained momentum after a visit by Kentucky Probation and Parole Officers in March 2013 to the residence of Lisa Ball and Dan Moeser on Nanny Hubbard Road in the Canadatown community.
During the visit, probation and parole officers discovered what they believed to be a meth lab at the residence and called Williamsburg police for assistance.
When Williamsburg police arrived, they also found a suspected explosive device inside the residence in close proximity to the active meth lab, according to a press release.
After the explosive device was found, Williamsburg police asked for assistance from ATF and the Kentucky State Police Hazardous Device Unit.
ATF determined that the device was a binary explosive mixture containing ammonium nitrate and other items and that it had two electric detonators.
The KSP Hazardous Device Unit disabled the explosive device and removed the meth lab from the residence. Police arrested Ball, Moeser and Jerry White at the residence.
Bird said that to his knowledge, he doesn’t know why the explosive device was made.
“The subsequent investigation turned up a large-scale conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine in the Canadatown community,” authorities noted in a press release.
“It is believed that the defendants conspired to manufacture meth daily for over two years producing several thousand grams of methamphetamine. It was common for these defendants to ‘cook’ meth while driving in their cars through this community or even while walking along public roadways with a ‘bottle cook’ in their pocket or hand.”
Bird noted that all 21 locations where the defendants made meth were located in fairly close proximity to one another.
“They all knew each other. They all worked in concert with each other,” Bird said. “It is especially large scale, especially for that community.”
Bird noted that he anticipates more arrests will probably be made in conjunction with the investigation before it is completed.
Bird said that this is the largest methamphetamine manufacturing conspiracy, which his department has been a part of dismantling.
Bird added that quite a bit of methamphetamine from the Canadatown community reaches Williamsburg.
“Most of what happens in the county filters into the city so I would say quite a bit,” Bird said. “A couple of these individuals were actually living in the city now.”
Bird said that cooperation between the state, federal and local agencies is vital, particularly for investigations of this nature.
“This investigation wouldn’t be possible without cooperation and all the agencies working together. It is extremely vital,” Bird added.
“We want to thank the sheriff’s department for their assistance and cooperation in the investigation and the commonwealth attorney’s office. We particularly want to thank the United States Attorney’s Office for taking such a tough stand on these type of cases. This community really needed it and the U.S. Attorney’s Office really stepped up and took a stand on these guys.”
More than two dozen people took part in making a large amount of methamphetamine in a rural Whitley County community, according to police and a federal indictment unsealed Monday.
The indictment listed charges against 28 people in the case. Some were charged earlier and already were in jail, but police arrested several more Sunday night and Monday, said Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird.
The indictment charges the 28 with conspiring to make more than 500 grams of meth in the Canada Town area.
The people charged in the conspiracy actually produced thousands of grams of the highly addictive drug, Bird said. The indictment uses the 500-gram figure because that is a threshold amount under federal law.
The participants in the alleged conspiracy abused much of the meth they produced but sold it as well, Bird said.
“I think it was a big source of meth that we were seeing here,” Bird said.
People produce meth by mixing certain chemicals in soft-drink bottles with over-the-counter cold and allergy medication that contains pseudoephedrine, setting off a reaction that makes the illegal drug.
Kentucky has had some of the highest numbers of meth-lab incidents in the country during the past several years.
Court records indicate the alleged drug ring at Canada Town included people who made the meth, called cooks, and others whose job was to buy cold medicine for the cooks to use, called smurfers.
Various police agencies were investigating meth cases at Canada Town, but the efforts came together in a common federal case after an incident in March, Bird said.
A state probation officer, Angie Ballou, found drug paraphernalia and drugs during a visit to the home of Daniel Moeser and Lisa Canada Ball; when police arrived to investigate, they found an explosive device in a man’s work boot, according to a sworn statement from Todd E. Tremaine, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Moeser, Ball and another man at the house told police that day about connections with other people who cooked meth or supplied pills, according to Tremaine’s affidavit.
“We realized, wow, we’ve got a major conspiracy here,” Bird said.
Police think people in the drug ring cooked meth daily for more than two years.
They took the small labs, which can blow up, with them as they drove through the area, and sometimes walked along the road with a bottle in hand or in a pocket, according to a news release from Williamsburg police.
Bird said there are a lot of good people in Canada Town who had complained to police about being inundated by drugs.
“I’m sure they’re tickled to death” by the arrests, Bird said.
Williamsburg police, the Whitley County Sheriff’s Office, state police and ATF investigated the case.