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
AUGUST 27, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NINE DEFENDANTS SENTENCED FOR MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR
CALIFORNIA MAN SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that nine defendants were sentenced in federal court this week for their roles 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.
Juan Lara, 61, of Ontario, Calif., and Ronald Willis, 63, of Lamar, Mo., were sentenced today in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith. Lara was sentenced to life in federal prison without parole. Willis was sentenced to 12 years and six months in federal prison without parole.
Roderick P. Conway, 38, and Timothy D. Kennon, 48, both of Lamar, and Michael C. Turner, 47, of Pittsburgh, Kan., were sentenced on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009. Roderick P. Conway was sentenced to 11 years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Kennon was sentenced to two years and six months in federal prison without parole. Turner was sentenced to time served.
Randy S. Lucero, 34, of Highland, Calif., Daniel Jeffrey McCann, 48, of Lamar, Joseph M. Kutina, 32, of Milo, Mo., and Michael Robert Conway, 68, of Freistaff, Mo., were sentenced on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009. Lucero was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole. McCann was sentenced to five years and six months in federal prison without parole. Kutina was sentenced to two years in federal prison without parole. Michael Robert Conway was sentenced to time served.
Lara and Willis were convicted at trial on March 26, 2009. They were found guilty of participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Barton County and elsewhere from December 2005 to Aug. 31, 2007. Willis was also found guilty of possessing methamphetamine on Feb. 28, 2007, in Barton County. The other defendants pleaded guilty to their roles in the drug-trafficking conspiracy. McCann also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing firearms.
Co-defendant Jose Lopez, also known as David Cerpa, 40, of Ontario, Calif., pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and awaits sentencing. 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, co-defendant Michael L. Wilson, 33, of 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. Wilson pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and was sentenced on May 22, 2009, to 15 years in federal prison without parole.
Lara, Lopez, Lucero and co-defendant Moises Medina, 50, of Pueblo, Colo., 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. Medina was sentenced to 21 months (time served) in federal prison.
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.
Five additional co-defendants have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the drug-trafficking conspiracy and have been sentenced.
Harold Heath Foster, 35, of Lamar, was sentenced to 11 years and eight months in federal prison without parole. David C. Paniagua, 40, of Highland, Calif., was sentenced to six years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Ronald L. Hampton, 39, of Liberal, Mo., who also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and to illegally possessing firearms, 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. Brandon R. Stone, 27, of Nevada, Mo., who also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing firearms, was sentenced to six years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Dustin L. Vittetoe, 35, of Horton, Mo., was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison without parole. 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.
This case was 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.
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