Operation Smoke and Mirrors Update: Kanawha County Man Sentenced to Prison for Role in Methamphetamine Trafficking Organization
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Two men who participated in a drug ring and distributed various drugs in Huntington appeared today in federal court. William Raeshaun Byrd, 31, of Huntington, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and cocaine. Christopher Leon Vest, 33, also of Huntington, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine. Vest faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years up to life in federal prison when he is sentenced on May 16, 2022.
According to the plea agreements and statements made in court, Byrd and Vest both admitted that they participated in the conspiracy from the summer of 2020 to July 2021. During the conspiracy, Byrd frequently received shipments of fentanyl and cocaine which were transported from Columbus, Ohio to Huntington by vehicle. For each shipment, Byrd received a minimum of 1 kilogram of fentanyl and 1 kilogram of cocaine. The drugs were provided to Byrd on consignment and Byrd would pay for the drugs after he distributed them in Huntington. Byrd further admitted that he operated two residences in Huntington as locations to accept the shipments and distribute the drugs. Vest frequently obtained quantities of methamphetamine, fentanyl and cocaine to distribute to various customers in the Huntington area. Vest provided the drugs to customers on consignment and was aware his customers intended to redistribute the drugs. Vest also admitted that he operated two residences in Huntington as locations to receive deliveries and to distribute the drugs.
On July 29, 2021, Byrd and Vest were arrested after an indictment was returned charging multiple individuals in the investigation and search warrants were executed at both men’s residences on that date. Law enforcement officers seized a number of items including two firearms and over $113,000 in United States currency at Byrd’s residence. Byrd admitted that he possessed the firearms and that the money constituted proceeds from drug sales. Law enforcement officers seized a number of items including four firearms and over $86,000 in United States currency from Vest’s residence. Vest admitted that he possessed the firearms and that the money constituted proceeds from drug sales. Search warrants were also executed at the two residences operated by Vest. During those searches, law enforcement officers seized over a kilogram of cocaine, 800 grams of fentanyl, and 450 grams of methamphetamine that Vest intended to distribute and two additional firearms.
To date, seven defendants have been convicted as result of the investigation.
“Thanks to the excellent work of the FBI and the Southern West Virginia TOC-West Task Force, this drug ring was shut down,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “Byrd and Vest, who were distributing significant amounts of deadly drugs, will no longer be endangering the public.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Southern West Virginia TOC-West Task Force conducted the investigation. The Southern West Virginia TOC-West Task Force consists of the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department, the Hurricane Police Department, and the Marshall University Police Department, with support from the West Virginia State Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Violent Crime and Drug Task Force West. The Ohio Highway Patrol, the Kentucky State Police, and the FBI and DEA in Columbus, Ohio also assisted in the investigation.
United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers presided over the hearings. Assistant United States Attorneys Joseph F. Adams and Courtney L. Cremeans are handling the prosecutions.
The investigation was part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and is the keystone of the Department of Justice’s drug reduction strategy. Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations, transnational criminal organizations, and money laundering organizations that present a significant threat to the public safety, economic, or national security of the United States.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:21-cr-00109.