Tuesday, June 14, 2011

TOP STORY >> Lottery winner in $2M drug bust

Leader staff writer

Simultaneous raids in Lonoke County’s Austin and White County’s Kensett early Friday morning netted 17 arrests, $100,000 in cash, seven pounds of Mexican ice (a smokable crystal meth), several weapons, as well as a small fleet of vehicles.

The raids were dubbed Operation Big Winner because Daniel “Dano” Henry, 39, of Austin, the alleged main distributor of a business that put five to 10 pounds of the illegal drug on central Arkansas streets every week, won $100,000 in the Arkansas Lottery.

Authorities say they hope to recover $2 million, which represents the amount of proceeds garnered from or traceable to the illegal drug trafficking.

Bill Bryant, the assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency in Little Rock, said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon that Henry became known to law-enforcement officers working drugs in 2005.

When other busts were made, Henry’s name would come up, Bryant said. Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson was aware of him, and apparently Henry’s neighbors also were. When he was taken away after the 6 a.m. raid on Friday that involved the DEA, State Police, Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department and helicopters from the Arkansas National Guard, his neighbors applauded, Bryant said.

But Bryant also conceded that although the bust was significant, historically when one drug ring is put out of business, another moves in to take its place.

At a street value of about $20,000 a pound, the seized drugs would have sold for about $140,000.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer also addressed the enormity of the task of eradicating illegal drugs during questioning after the press conference. Arkansas all but shut down large methamphetamine manufacturing operations by passing laws that put allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine behind drug-store counters, he said. But that opened the door for Mexico to supply the demand for meth.

Bryant said one pound of the ice was found at Henry’s home and six pounds were found in Kensett in a flower bed next door to the home of Christian, 26, and Gladis Maldonado, 29, who allegedly brought the ice in from Mexico.

The drug was inside a length of plastic plumbing pipe with a glued cap on the bottom and a threaded cap on top so it could be removed. The Maldonado’s neighbor was not aware that the drug was in the flower bed, Bryant said.

In addition to Henry and the Kensett couple, these alleged distributors were indicted in federal court: Rebecca Henry, 36, of Austin; Michael Myers, 42, of Austin; Patrick Linn, 38, of Little Rock; Jason Holmes, 36, of Cabot; Brent Amaden, 39, of Carlisle;

Also Michael Himstedt, 48, of Little Rock; Michael Leszczyna “Mike D”, 31, of Lonoke;
John Henry Youngblood, Jr., 40, of Jacksonville; Oather Lee Fulmer aka Lebo, 44, of Cabot; Rex Ingle, 43, of Carlisle; Paul Criswell, 46, of Little Rock; Paul Simpkins, 36, of Cabot; Matthew Griffey, 30, of North Little Rock; Aleshia Johnston, 23, of Roland; Jennifer Mize, 41, of Austin; Margaret Diann Henry, 62, of Austin, and Dustin Dyer, 33, of Benton.

Most were indicted for distributing illegal drugs. However, Margaret Diann Henry and Mize were indicted for allegedly knowing about illegal activity and not reporting it. And Dyer, a Benton immigration and naturalization law attorney, was indicted for using a telephone with the intent to commit the felony offense of conspiracy to distribute meth.

At the time of the press conference, Henry and the Kensett couple were in federal custody and the other 14 who were arrested were released until a court appearance is set. Three were not yet in custody: Holmes, Johnston and Fulmer.

In addition to the cash and drugs, law-enforcement officers seized the double wide and all other structures at 1171 Webber Lane, Austin, a yellow H2 Hummer, a black Corvette, a black Chevrolet Tahoe, six motorcycles, two boats, a tractor, two certificates of deposit from Centennial Bank and a checking account from Centennial Bank.

Although the raids were coordinated by the DEA, Bryant said 80 to 90 law-enforcement agencies worked the arrests.