By Nate Smith
---- — Court documents filed for several defendants in Tuesday's large meth bust reveal a large drug network that delivered meth from California to Daviess County.
Probable cause affidavits were filed in state cases against the 15-person drug ring. On Tuesday, 14 involved in the ring were taken into custody by local, state and federal officers. One person, David Merritt, remains at-large, according to the Daviess County Sheriff's Department.
According to the affidavits filed, Merritt, along with Chris Kimmons, Alan Marshall, James Coy and Marcus Newson, are alleged to be the key individuals of the organization. All five, along with Antoin Alston of Long Beach, Calif., have been indicted in federal court with conspiracy to distribute over 500 grams of methamphetamine.
The trail that led to the organization's demise started in Oct. 2012 when members of the Evansville DEA task force, along with the sheriff's department and Indiana State Police initiated an investigation based on "information from cooperating sources."
Based on information from the investigation, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young authorized three wiretaps in June 2013. On June 13, a tap was authorized for a cellphone used by Marshall and a cellphone tap for Merritt was authorized on June 11. A third cellphone tap was authorized on June 27.
The affidavits, filed in Daviess Superior Court, were for those charged under state law. They include Adam Tolbert, Rhonda Lewis, Jennifer Sandoval, Jeffrey Fox and Eunice Lesure, all of Washington. All were arrested on charges of dealing in or conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and were still being held on $500,000 bond. Fox was released on bond and an attempt to reach him was unsuccessful.
For charges on Tolbert, Lewis and Fox, the affidavits listed telephone conversations with Marshall and Merritt. For Tolbert, several wiretaps recorded said he allegedly asked for meth he was going to sell to others, including several ounces.
Lewis was also allegedly recorded on wiretaps in July asking for meth to sell. Fox, according to the affidavit, was employed by Daviess County Rural Water and used a cellphone owned by the the utility to allegedly set up meth deals.
A message was left with a board member of the rural water utility for comment.
Many of the state charges were made against low level dealers in the network. The federal charges were for the leaders and main distributors. In an affidavit, it alleges that Alston was the main supplier of meth for the organization.
"As a (source of supply), Alston would organize large shipments, from several ounces to multiple pounds of methamphetamine, from California and arrange for them to be shipped to the Washington, Indiana area," the affidavit said.
Merritt and Kimmons acted as leaders of the ring who obtained the large amounts from Alston, broke the meth down into smaller quantities and distributed them to mid-level dealers, like Marshall, Newson and Coy. Those men would then break down the drugs even more and package them to the dealers at the street level.
The affidavit said members of the Evansville DEA task force successfully bought meth from Marshall during the investigation.
Leroy Ellis, Washington, was also charged with state conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and when the warrant was served, officers found a significant amount of marijuana. Also found were ledgers of drug transactions and a .40-caliber handgun, according to the probable cause affidavit in his arrest. His bond was set at $500,000.
Three others, Barbara Kimmons, Haven Ramsey and Ruby Ramsey, were also arrested for federal money laundering charges. The Ramseys reside in Washington.
Many of the individuals arrested Tuesday have previous drug arrests in Daviess County. Initial hearings have not taken place for those under state charges, but two sets of initial hearings are scheduled for Friday in Daviess Superior Court. The federal cases are still awaiting formal charges.
Summary Through wiretaps, informants and undercover drug buys, local law enforcement built a case that arrested 14 tied to a three-state drug ring. One person is still at large.