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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


MATT J. WHITWORTH


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


AUGUST 12, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


FIVE MORE CO-DEFENDANTS SENTENCED

FOR METH CONSPIRACY


            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that five co-defendants in a large-scale conspiracy to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine were sentenced in federal court today.


            Jeremiah L. Harris, also known as “Luke,” 30, of Independence, Mo., Shelli M. Smith, 44, Shawn P. Berkstresser, 42, and Tracy J. Kerr, 39, all of Kansas City, Mo., and Eric V. Cares, 46, of Lee’s Summit, Mo., were sentenced in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple. Harris was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole. Smith and Berkstresser were each sentenced to 11 years and three months in federal prison without parole. Kerr was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months in federal prison without parole. Cares was sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole.


            Co-defendants Bryan G. Leonard, 33, Melissa J. Fox, 43, and April D. Coots, 26, all of Platte County, Mo., were sentenced on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009. Leonard, who detonated an explosion at his residence and engaged in a shoot-out and high-speed car chase with law enforcement officers, was sentenced to life in federal prison without parole, plus a mandatory consecutive sentence of 10 years in federal prison, without parole. Fox and Coots were each sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole.


            Harris, Cares, Smith, Berkstresser and Kerr each pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy to manufacture well over 15 kilograms of methamphetamine between Jan. 1, 2006, and April 10, 2008. Harris also pleaded guilty to creating a substantial risk of harm to human life while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture methamphetamine.


            The final co-defendant, Lisa W. Yazel, 46, of Lee’s Summit, has also pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy and will be sentenced on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009.


            Leonard cooked methamphetamine at his residence with Harris, his partner. Leonard was using pharmaceutical grade ephedrine and could produce more than five pounds of methamphetamine each time he conducted a “cook” using a 72,000 ML flask.


            Fox and Coots distributed methamphetamine for Leonard and Harris, and would also aid them in getting all the necessary supplies to perform meth cooks and maintain the residence to perform each meth cook.


            Leonard also delivered large quantities of methamphetamine for further distribution to Smith and Berkstresser, who resided together at a residence located within 1,000 feet of James Elementary School. On Jan. 2, 2008, using a confidential source, detectives purchased methamphetamine from Smith and Berkstresser, who indicated they were preparing for another meth cook later that night. Detectives then executed a search warrant and discovered evidence of a methamphetamine production lab inside the residence. Smith, Berkstresser, Cares and Yazel were all arrested inside the residence. Detectives discovered approximately 345.57 grams of liquid substances containing a mixture of methamphetamine, along with numerous items such as glassware, bowls, bottles, chemicals, tubing, stained coffee filters and stained gloves, funnels and other items consistent with manufacturing methamphetamine. Detectives learned that Yazel and Cares had just purchased items such as pseudoephedrine, lye, red phosphorus and iodine to bring to Smith and Berkstresser to cook meth.


            Kerr bought pseudoephedrine from Leonard and Harris, which he used in his own methamphetamine laboratory. Kerr also obtained methamphetamine from Leonard and Harris for further distribution.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Wolesky. It was investigated by the Metro Drug Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Platte County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Parkville, Mo., Police Department, the Riverside, Mo., Department of Public Safety, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service.


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html