Friday, December 1, 2023 - On November 13, 2023, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Oklahoma returned an indictment charging thirteen individuals with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl, announced Christopher J. Wilson, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.
The Indictment alleges that beginning in or about August 2022 and continuing until on or about the date of the indictment, in the Eastern District of Oklahoma and elsewhere, the defendants willfully and knowingly combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed together, and with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to commit offenses against the United States, namely the possession with intent to distribute and distribution of methamphetamine and fentanyl.
Each of the following defendants stands indicted for Drug Conspiracy, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A):
HEATH LLOYD TAYLOR, age 44, of McAlester;
AARON GUY KEY, age 46, of McAlester;
MALLORY NICOLE LAIRD, age 36, of Poteau;
CODY WADE REECE, age 33, of Poteau;
TERRI ANGELA STROUD, age 52, of Spiro;
KANDI ANNE HANKINS, age 42, of Poteau;
TRAVIS AUSTIN POWERS, age 37, of Starr, South Carolina;
HEATHER LEIGH BROWN, age 32, of McAlester;
TRACIE ANN SELLS, age 54, of Sallisaw;
JEREMY PAUL NEWMAN, age 46, of Poteau;
STEPHEN DUANE EMBREY, age 64, of Poteau;
WHITNEY GRANITE-JEFFREY, age 33, of Spiro; and
RANDI SHAWN GANN, age 33, of Poteau.
If convicted on the drug conspiracy charges, the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison.
In addition to drug conspiracy charges, seven defendants are also charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Fentanyl or Methamphetamine, a violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), and defendant Whitney Granite-Jeffery is also charged with Felon in Possession of Firearms, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(g). If convicted, these defendants face additional sentences.
The charges arose from an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.
The joint investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, working in cooperation with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Office of the Inspector General, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.
Additionally, several law enforcement agencies contributed at various stages of the investigation, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the District 16 Drug and Violent Crime Taskforce, the District 18 Drug and Violent Crime Taskforce, the Poteau Police Department, the Spiro Police Department, the Choctaw Nation Lighthorse Police, the Seminole Police Department, the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office, the LeFlore County Sheriff’s Office, the Sequoyah County Sheriff’s Office, and the United States Marshals Service.
“Today a federal indictment was unsealed after members of a drug trafficking organization operating within the Eastern District of Oklahoma were arrested on federal warrants for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl,” said United States Attorney Christopher J. Wilson. “The arrests mark the culmination of a months-long multi-agency investigation. I want to thank each of the federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement officers for their many hours of work in this case. Illegal drugs continue to destroy lives every day, and the United States Attorney’s Office remains committed to investigating and dismantling groups peddling poison in our communities.”
“Dismantling a criminal drug trafficking organization requires both tenacity and teamwork. We are fortunate to have both due to DEA McAlester’s partnership with the various law enforcement entities throughout Eastern Oklahoma,” said DEA Dallas Special Agent in Charge, Eduardo A. Chávez, whose office oversees all DEA operations in Oklahoma. “Those who are responsible for the distribution of fentanyl and methamphetamine in our communities will be held accountable. Our families deserve to live and work in safe environments, free from drugs, and we will never waver in our efforts to achieve that goal.”
“We want this investigation to serve as a clear and powerful message that Oklahoma is not a safe haven for drug criminals,” said Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics Director Donnie Anderson. “Meth and fentanyl take more Oklahoma lives each year than any other drugs. And my agency is dedicated to working with our local, state, and federal partners to aggressively target, dismantle and prosecute those who threaten the safety and well-being of our citizens.”
“The Oklahoma Department of Corrections appreciates working alongside all our law enforcement counterparts – local, state, tribal and federal – to keep Oklahomans safe,” said Oklahoma Department of Corrections Executive Director Steven Harpe. “Our partnership with OBNDD to create and operate the Watch Center is vital and has resulted in taking down bad actors who threaten public safety.”
“The collaboration among the federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies has been exemplary throughout this investigation,” said District 16 District Attorney Kevin Merritt. “I want to thank each of the law enforcement officers involved for protecting our citizens and helping to keep our communities safe.”
Assistant United States Attorneys Erin Cornell and Ryan Bondura are prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.
A grand jury indictment is not evidence of guilt but is a method of bringing formal charges against defendants. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
KXMX Staff Writer
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