News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2009
Contact: Thomas E. Murphy
(314) 538-4660

Local Leader of Nationwide Meth Conspiracy
Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison
Six Defendants Sentenced for Multi-Million Dollar
Drug-Trafficking Conspiracy

MAY 22 -- SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that six more defendants were sentenced in federal court this week for participating in a conspiracy to distribute millions of dollars worth of methamphetamine in Barton County, Mo., and elsewhere.

Operation Buckshot was a multi-agency investigation into a large-scale drug-trafficking conspiracy that involved the distribution of methamphetamine from California through Kansas City, Mo., and into southwest Missouri. That successful investigation resulted in the seizure of more than 38 pounds of methamphetamine, in excess of $100,000, four vehicles and 89 firearms, along with more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and blasting caps. Numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in both Missouri and Kansas participated in Operation Buckshot.

Michael L. Wilson, 32, of Lamar, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith this afternoon to 15 years in federal prison without parole. Wilson has previously forfeited to the government $42,380 that was seized by law enforcement officers, a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro and a 2000 Ford Mustang, which were used to commit the offense.

Moises Medina, 50, of Pueblo, Colo., was sentenced this morning to 21 months (time served) in federal prison.

Wilson and Medina each pleaded guilty on Oct. 8, 2008, to their roles in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Barton County and elsewhere from December 2005 to Aug. 31, 2007. Medina also pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute in excess of 500 grams of methamphetamine.

Wilson admitted that he received multi-pound deliveries of methamphetamine from suppliers based in California. Those suppliers used couriers to transport the methamphetamine to Kansas City or occasionally to Lamar. Wilson then distributed the methamphetamine to his distributors in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Wilson’s residence on July 11, 2007, seizing approximately three kilograms of methamphetamine, $37,880 and two vehicles that were used to facilitate the conspiracy.

Medina admitted that he drove a Chevrolet Trailblazer, carrying more than 11 kilograms of methamphetamine, from Colorado to Kansas City, Kan., in August 2007. Police officers discovered 26 individually wrapped packages containing 11.62 kilograms (approximately 25 pounds) of methamphetamine in a hidden compartment of the vehicle.

Three co-defendants who earlier pleaded guilty to their roles in the drug-trafficking conspiracy were sentenced on Thursday, May 21, 2009. Harold Heath Foster, 35, of Lamar, was sentenced to 11 years and eight months in federal prison without parole. David C. Paniagua, 39, of Highland, Calif., was sentenced to six years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Ronald L. Hampton, 38, of Liberal, Mo., was sentenced to 20 months (time served) in federal prison. The court also ordered Hampton to forfeit to the government 24 firearms that were used to commit the offenses along with $6,729, which represents proceeds from the conspiracy.

Foster admitted that he was supplied methamphetamine by Wilson. He primarily received the methamphetamine from Wilson on a “front,” meaning on consignment, and paid for it after he had distributed the methamphetamine to others. The amount of methamphetamine attributable to Foster, including relevant conduct, is more than 1.5 kilograms.

Paniagua admitted that he helped broker and served as an interpreter for methamphetamine sales between conspirators in California. Paniagua also assisted by traveling from California to Kansas City to help facilitate the delivery of methamphetamine to Kansas City, or the delivery of money from the proceeds of methamphetamine sales from Kansas City back to California.

Hampton also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and to illegally possessing firearms. Hampton was arrested on Feb. 28, 2007, while in possession of 177.1 grams of pure methamphetamine, which has been fronted (provided on consignment) by Wilson for $19,200, and a Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistol. Law enforcement officers also seized 24 firearms from Hampton’s residence, along with $6,792 in drug trafficking proceeds. Hampton admitted that he was supplied by Wilson with pound quantities of methamphetamine for distribution. The amount of methamphetamine attributable to Hampton, including relevant conduct, is more than 1.5 kilograms.

Brandon R. Stone, 27, of Nevada, Mo., was sentenced on Wednesday, May 20, 2009, to six years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Stone pleaded guilty on July 29, 2008, to his role in the methamphetamine conspiracy and to illegally possessing firearms. Stone admitted that he was in possession of a Savage Arms .22-caliber rifle on July 11, 2007, in Vernon County, Mo. At that time, Stone was an unlawful user of methamphetamine. Stone also admitted that he was supplied by Wilson with methamphetamine for distribution. The amount of methamphetamine attributable to Stone, including relevant conduct, is more than 1.5 kilograms.

Dustin L. Vittetoe, 34, of Horton, Mo., was sentenced on April 2, 2009, to 10 years in federal prison without parole. Vittetoe pleaded guilty in July 2008 to his role in the drug-trafficking conspiracy. Vittetoe admitted that the amount of pure methamphetamine attributable to him is more than 1.5 kilograms. Vittetoe also admitted that in June 2007 he approached an agent with the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET) and attempted to bribe the officer to provide protection for the drug-trafficking organization.

Two co-defendants were convicted at trial on March 26, 2009, and await sentencing. Ronald Willis, 62, of Lamar, Mo., and Juan Lara, 60, of Ontario, Ca, were found guilty of participating in the drug-trafficking conspiracy. Willis was also found guilty of possessing methamphetamine on Feb. 28, 2007, in Barton County.

Eight additional co-defendants have pleaded guilty to the charges contained in an Oct. 3, 2007, superseding indictment. Daniel Jeffrey McCann, 48, Timothy D. Kennon, 48, and Roderick P. Conway, 38, all of Lamar, Joseph M. Kutina, 32, of Milo, Mo., Michael C. Turner, 47, of Pittsburgh, Kan., Michael Robert Conway, 68, of Freistaff, Mo., Jose Lopez, also known as David Cerpa, 40, a citizen of Mexico residing in Ontario, Ca, and Randy S. Lucero, 34, of Highland, Ca, have each pleaded guilty to their roles in the methamphetamine conspiracy. McCann also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing firearms.

Lopez admitted that he supplied methamphetamine to Lucero for distribution. Lucero then transported the methamphetamine – usually by a courier traveling via Amtrak – from California to his main distributor, Wilson, in Missouri. Lara, Lopez, Lucero and Medina were arrested in August 2007 when they traveled to Kansas City to deliver a shipment of methamphetamine to Wilson. Police officers discovered 26 individually wrapped packages containing 11.62 kilograms (approximately 25 pounds) of methamphetamine in a hidden compartment of the Chevrolet Trailblazer that was driven by Medina, in which Lopez was a passenger. In addition to the conspiracy, Medina pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute in excess of 500 grams of methamphetamine.

Michael Robert Conway admitted that he was paid by Wilson to transport shipments of methamphetamine from Kansas City to Lamar in the bed of his pick-up truck.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Rush. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the sheriff’s departments of Vernon, Barton, and Jasper Counties, CNET (the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the police departments of Lamar, Mo., and Nevada, Mo.