Locals caught in major drug bust
Ten people, including two from Dugger and three from Carlisle, were arrested on drug charges Wednesday by police and federal agents after law enforcement agents executed federal arrest and search warrants in west-central Indiana.
Arrested following their indictment for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Indiana were: Daniel O. Cheshire, 48, Carlisle; Marlene K. Manfredda, 51, Carlisle; Walter Duregger, Jr. 44, Center Point; and Frederick H. Lenover, 53, Lyford, Ind.
Also arrested and expected to be charged in District Court were: Carol M. Benskin, 41, Clinton, possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine; Tonya Wolfe, 42, Carlisle, on preliminary firearms violations; Kenneth Crynes, 54, Dugger, possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and possession of firearm in connection with a drug trafficking offense; Cathy Crynes, 41, Dugger, on preliminary charges of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and possession of firearm in connection with a drug trafficking offense; Shawn Decker, 28, Terre Haute, on preliminary charges of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and manufacture of marijuana; Tony P. McMillin, 31, Vincennes, on preliminary charges of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and possession of firearm in connection with a drug trafficking offense.
Also indicted for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, but still at large, were Oscar B. McGraw, Jr., 55, Carlisle, and Samuel T. Hargrove, 48, Los Angeles, Calif.
Tim Morrison of the U.S. Attorney's office told The Daily Citizen this morning that McGraw and Hargrove had not yet been located.
In addition, Cheshire was charged with one count of distribution of methamphetamine and Cheshire and Manfredda were both charged with possession of a firearm during and in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.
The indictment alleges that the six defendants conspired to distribute methamphetamine in the Terre Haute area from the fall 2000 through June 5, 2002.
Two of those involved, McGraw and Lenover, reportedly had recent ties to the Diablos motorcycle club, based in Sullivan County.
The case, which began about a year ago, is one of the biggest in west-central Indiana region involving meth.
The case began with a tip to Terre Haute city detectives who gave their information to the Vigo County Drug Task Force, according to Terre Haute Police Chief Jim Horrall.
"We contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration (office in Indianapolis) because we realized it was a multi-jurisdictional and multi-state case," Horrall explained.
The investigation involved countless hours of surveillance, controlled drug buys and wire taps which showed that large amounts of meth were being transported from California to Indiana, then being distributed in west central Indiana and southern Illinois, according to authorities.
As a result of that investigation, more than 12 pounds of meth was seized by police.
Susan W. Brooks, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, made the investigation public at a press conference in Terre Haute on Wednesday.
The charges resulted from a year-long investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation, and supported by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, U.S. Marshals Service, Indiana State Police, Terre Haute Police Department, Evansville Police Department, Vincennes Police Department, Gibson County Sheriff's Department, Daviess County Sheriff's Department.
Wednesday morning, nearly 100 law enforcement agents served arrest warrants and executed a number of search warrants in west-central Indiana. The indictments were unsealed Wednesday after law enforcement agents searched sites in Sullivan, Vigo, Clay, Knox, Parke and Vermillion counties.
No one was injured during the process. In searches conducted pursuant to the execution of federal warrants, agents and officers seized quantities of methamphetamine, more than 200 firearms, including at least one automatic weapon, more than $60,000 in cash and other items. Brooks praised all the agencies and departments involved for the professionalism, coordination and planning that was required to safely accomplish this law enforcement operation.
Prior to Wednesday, law enforcement agencies seized 11 pounds of methamphetamine during the investigation, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. The investigative plan employed a variety of law enforcement techniques, including surveillance, controlled purchases of methamphetamine, and court-ordered wiretaps.
According to assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley A. Blackington, who is prosecuting the case for the government, each defendant charged in the indictment faces a maximum possible prison sentence of life imprisonment and a maximum possible fine of $4 million. An initial hearing is scheduled for today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Terre Haute.
"It took a lot of effort from a lot of different agencies cooperating," Morrison said this morning. "It was a pretty good investment by all involved ---- it was pretty intense."