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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Wyoming

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Saturday, April 17, 2021

DRUG TRAFFICKING GROUP SENTENCED FOR DISTRIBUTING HEROIN AND METHAMPHETAMINE ON THE WIND RIVER RESERVATION AND IN FREMONT COUNTY

Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray announced today that the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming has completed sentencing of three defendants charged in a drug trafficking case. ELIZABETH THERESA SMITH (38), from Riverton, KEVIN VANNDARA CHANTHAPANNHA (29), from Utah, and KENNETH BLAKE WOOD (28), from Lander, were all convicted and sentenced related to their involvement in a conspiracy to distribute heroin and methamphetamine.

While conducting investigations into the distribution of controlled substances in the Fremont County area, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation identified Smith and Chanthapannha as supplying significant quantities of heroin and methamphetamine throughout Fremont County. On May 21, 2020, Smith and Chanthapannha were arrested during a joint operation involving the DCI and law enforcement officers with the Lander Police Department, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Wind River Police Department.

The investigation revealed that Smith and Chanthapannha, both armed drug traffickers, were obtaining multiple ounces of heroin and as much as a pound of methamphetamine on a near monthly basis, for more than a year, from sources of supply in the Salt Lake City, Utah area and bringing those drugs back to Lander for distribution throughout Fremont County and the Wind River Reservation. Wood served as a key dealer for Smith and Chanthapannha and purchased from them on an almost daily basis.

Smith, Chanthapannha and Wood were initially charged by the Fremont County Attorney’s Office. After consultation with local prosecutors, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming undertook their federal prosecution. All three defendants entered guilty pleas in lieu of going to trial and were sentenced as follows: Smith received a total of 216 months’ imprisonment – 156 months for the drug conspiracy and a consecutive 60 months for possession of a firearm during the conspiracy; Chanthapannha received a total of 190 months’ imprisonment – 130 months for the drug conspiracy and a consecutive 60 months for possession of a firearm during the conspiracy; and Wood received 21 months’ imprisonment.

“It’s disheartening to see people like the defendants not only succumb to their addictions, but to then watch them profit from selling large quantities of meth and heroin to members of their community, ultimately destroying people’s lives,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “We will not sit idly by and let criminals like Smith, Chanthapannha and Wood wreak havoc on the Fremont County communities and the Wind River Reservation by peddling drugs that cause a vicious cycle of addiction and crime. Instead, our office will remain steadfast in bringing these types of traffickers to justice and we will do so with the help or our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners.”

This crime was investigated by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, and the Lander Police Department. The United States was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy W. Gist.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Indian Country Law and Justice
Press Release Number: 
PR20210416
Updated April 17, 2021