U. S. Attorney Mike Stuart Honors Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force and Others
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Yesterday United States Attorney Mike Stuart recognized the members of the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force and officers with the Parkersburg Police Department for their outstanding work in partnership with his office.
“The caliber of law enforcement professionals in the Parkersburg area and throughout West Virginia is impressive,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “While none of our Guardians of Justice work for the accolades, I’m honored to award their outstanding efforts and give them the recognition they truly deserve.”
The Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force received the U.S. Attorney’s Award for Drug and Violent Crime Task Force of the Year for their work in the multi-state investigation called Project Parkersburg. Project Parkersburg resulted in a major takedown, the dismantling of a major meth and heroin drug trafficking organization (DTO) and netted the largest meth bust in West Virginia history. In addition to the seizure of 150 pounds of meth, law enforcement also seized 217 grams of heroin, 478 grams of fentanyl and six kilos of cocaine during the investigation. Sixteen defendants were charged by federal indictment and all but two of those defendants have been sentenced. In December 2017, law enforcement executed a search warrant at a residence in Parkersburg during which they learned that large amounts of methamphetamine were being shipped to West Virginia from Mexico. Witness interviews, financial records, and informant information led to the identification of Parkersburg residents Terrance McGuirk, Antoine Terry, and Aurelius Edmonds as individuals with access to the methamphetamine being shipped from the southern border to locations in West Virginia and Ohio. Over several months, agents and task force officers conducted an exhaustive investigation linking the Parkersburg DTO to sources in Arizona. On September 19, 2018, surveillance led investigators to Dayton, Ohio where Terry and Edmonds met with Arizona residents Todd Land and Troy Pastorino to pick up a large shipment of controlled substances to include more than 150 pounds of methamphetamine that had been offloaded from a truck into a rented storage unit. Investigators observed Pastorino load the drugs into the trunk of a Dodge Charger. Police seized the drugs after conducting a traffic stop of Pastorino. Terry, Edmonds, and Land were arrested at a nearby business, and McGuirk was arrested at his hotel near the Dayton airport. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led the Project Parkersburg operation and in addition to the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force, the Parkersburg Police Department, the Dayton, Ohio Police Department, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted the investigation.
Lt. Pat Edelen, Sgt. Josh Snyder and Agent Kyle Barnette with the Parkersburg Police Department were each presented with the U.S. Attorney’s Award for Excellence in Pursuit of Justice for their critical roles in the case of United States v. Benjamin Lee Parsons. The long-term investigation of Parsons began in 2016 for making threats against police and others and claiming to have interest in terrorist organizations. In December 2015, he had worn a mask to a church service in Mineral Wells. Later, Parsons told several witnesses at a church in Parkersburg that he was armed, that he had recently thought about shooting police, that he had been watching violent terrorist videos, and that he had communicated with foreign terrorists and discussed several “soft targets” in Wood County. Due to the efforts of Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure, Parsons was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in February 2017. That adjudication prohibited Parsons from possessing firearms under both state and federal law. In October 2018, investigators learned that Parsons had acquired additional firearms, including a high-capacity semiautomatic assault rifle. Investigators further learned that Parsons had obtained the weapon from another individual who told investigators that he had purchased it for Parsons from a licensed firearms dealer in Marietta, Ohio. Parsons was arrested in October 2018, and soon thereafter, investigators executed a search warrant at a wooded area in Mineral Wells where Parsons had been living. They recovered the assault rifle as well as another rifle from a locked case Parsons kept at his campsite. The assault rifle was loaded with approximately 190 rounds of belted ammunition in a drum magazine. Investigators also located and seized 12 magazines for the other rifle loaded with 164 rounds of ammunition, 32 additional unloaded magazines, and approximately 640 rounds of 9mm and other rifle ammunition. Parsons pled guilty to being a prohibited person in possession of firearms and is currently serving five years in federal prison. Law enforcement officers with the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were also involved in the investigation of Parsons.
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.