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
APRIL 13, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TWELVE ST. JOSEPH RESIDENTS INDICTED FOR
DISTRIBUTING METH IN BUCHANAN COUNTY
LEADER OF CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE FACES
MANDATORY LIFE SENTENCE
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that 12 defendants from the St. Joseph, Mo., area, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for distributing large quantities of methamphetamine in Buchanan County, Mo.
Gilberto Lara-Ruiz, also known as “Hill,” 29, a citizen of Mexico, was charged with being the leader of a continuing criminal enterprise that distributed at least 10 kilograms of methamphetamine from Jan. 1, 2005, to Dec. 27, 2006. If convicted as charged, Lara-Ruiz could be subject to a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison without parole.
Leatha Mae Gutierrez, 40, Bruce Allen Bish, 23, Belinda Leigh Heastan, 34, Steven Laverne Blacketer, 43, Cody Shawn Gardner, 27, Charles Whitson Corbitt, 23, Kala Yvette Rose, 45, Ernest Harold Sneddon, also known as “Mouse,” 40, Dustin John Benny, 28, Danny Ray Hughes, 35, and Nathan Michael McKee, also known as “Cheesy,” 27, all of St. Joseph, were charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 27, 2006.
The 15-count indictment was returned on Thursday, April 9, 2009, by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo.
Lara-Ruiz is also charged along with various co-defendants with seven counts related to the possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. In addition, the indictment alleges that Lara-Ruiz was in possession of several firearms in furtherance of those drug-trafficking crimes, including a sawed-off shotgun, an AR-15-style rifle, a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and a .22-caliber revolver. Lara-Ruiz is also charged with discharging a loaded handgun in relation to a drug-trafficking crime.
Today’s indictment also charges Lara-Ruiz, Gutierrez, Bish, Heastan, Corbitt, Rose, Blacketer, Sneddon, Benny, Hughes, Gardner and McKee with participating in a money-laundering conspiracy by conducting financial transactions that involved the proceeds of unlawful activity, with the intent to promote the drug-trafficking conspiracy. The indictment alleges that Lara-Ruiz accepted cash, guns and vehicles, valued in excess of $50,000, from all of the other defendants.
Lara-Ruiz, Bish, Sneddon and Gardner were also charged in a money-laundering count involving a motorcycle that was taken as payment for drugs. Lara-Ruiz was also charged in a money-laundering count involving a stolen 9 mm semi-automatic pistol that was traded to reduce a drug debt and for methamphetamine. Lara-Ruiz and Gutierrez are also charged in a money-laundering count involving $50,000 in drug proceeds.
In addition to the drug-trafficking conspiracy, Rose, Blacketer, Bish, Corbitt and Hughes are each charged with aiding and abetting Lara-Ruiz to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. Gutierrez is charged with two counts of aiding and abetting Lara-Ruiz to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Benny was also indicted in a separate but related case for his role in a conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine between Sept. 16, 2006, and Jan. 8, 2009.
Whitworth cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Rhoades. It was investigated by the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
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