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Press Release

Monett Man Who Trafficked ‘Half the Town’ Sentenced To 12 Years for Meth Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Monett, Missouri, man was sentenced in federal court today for his role in a conspiracy that distributed more than 20 pounds of methamphetamine in southern Missouri.

Eric Eugene Akins, 54, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to 12 years in federal prison without parole.

On Jan. 21, 2020, Akins pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Greene, Barry, Lawrence, and Howell Counties from May 10 to Dec. 19, 2018. Akins obtained at least 10 pounds of methamphetamine from co-defendant Damian Arreola-Chico, 30, of Purdy, Mo., which he then distributed to others. Investigators determined that the methamphetamine involved in the conspiracy was of high purity, some as much as 99 percent pure.

Law enforcement officers searched a storage shed Akins rented on Aug. 7, 2018, where they found a backpack that contained a total of 134.06 grams of methamphetamine. Akins told investigators the methamphetamine had been fronted to him by Arreola-Chico and that he owed $5,000 for it. According to court documents Akins bragged to investigators that he was distributing methamphetamine to “half the town.”

At the time of the offense, Akins was on state probation after his fifth conviction for possessing a controlled substance. Akins also has prior felony convictions for burglary, forgery, non-support, stealing, and distribution of a controlled substance.

Akins is the final defendant to be sentenced in this case. Four co-defendants also have pleaded guilty to their roles in the drug-trafficking conspiracy. Arreola-Chico was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole. Maleana Lee Willhite, 40, of Verona, Mo., was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison without parole. Michael Eugene Handshy, 40, of Billings, Mo., was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison without parole. Michael Shae Rhoads, 29, of Monett (who also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in furtherance of the drug-trafficking conspiracy) was sentenced to six years in federal prison without parole.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica R. Sarff. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, COMET (the Combined Ozarks Multi-jurisdictional Enforcement Team), the Monett, Mo., Police Department, the Springfield, Mo., Police Department, the Howell County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, and the West Plains, Mo., Police Department.

Updated October 29, 2020

Drug Trafficking