JUN 18 (FORT SMITH, Ark.) – Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge Mike Davis and Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that three individuals have been sentenced to a combined total of 207 months for drug-trafficking offenses stemming from an investigation known as “Operation Shaw-Crank Redemption,” a large-scale drug-trafficking organization active in the Fort Smith area. The defendants were originally charged in a 16-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on June 5, 2013. The Honorable P. K. Holmes III, United States District Judge, handed down the sentences in Fort Smith.
The defendants sentenced today are as follows:
Phillip Knox, 47, of Fort Smith, Arkansas, was sentenced to 120 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
Jamie Ramos, 27, of Alma, Arkansas, was sentenced to 41 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
Leslie Kaelin, 34, of Fort Smith, Arkansas, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
“The successful prosecution of the members of this major drug trafficking organization should be a warning to others who engage in this type of activity,” stated DEA Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge Mike Davis. “This case highlights the impact multiple agencies can have when they join forces. We will continue to work together and pursue those who threaten our communities through the smuggling and distribution of illegal and dangerous drugs and bring them to justice,” said Davis.
U.S. Attorney Eldridge stated, “Our office has worked tirelessly with law enforcement to see that each defendant in this drug-trafficking case was held responsible. With these sentences, we have taken another large step forward in making Fort Smith and communities in the River Valley a safer place. We remain committed to our mission of vigilantly prosecuting this type of illegal activity so that our children are protected from drug-trafficking and the crime that comes with it.”
Beginning in August of 2012, law enforcement began an investigation into drug trafficking of Gerardo Gamboa, aka “Tio.” Gamboa was the head of this organization and was bringing in and selling pound quantities of methamphetamine in the River Valley area. Gamboa would distribute or sell quantities of methamphetamine to drug dealers who would then distribute smaller quantities of methamphetamine to lower-level drug dealers in the organization or to methamphetamine users. Law enforcement made controlled purchases of methamphetamine from several members at various levels of the organization. Gamboa was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on May 29, 2014.
The investigation into the Gamboa drug-trafficking organization grew out of a larger investigation known as “Operation Shaw-Crank Redemption.” This investigation has been ongoing for two years and has involved the use of a wide variety of approaches by law-enforcement to disrupt, dismantle, and prosecute drug trafficking in the Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Arkansas River Valley area. Numerous controlled buys, surveillance, search warrants, and monitoring have been used during the course of the investigation. Due to its impact on multiple states, this investigation was designated an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. The investigation has resulted in a total of 49 arrests and prosecutions, including the defendants charged as part of the Gamboa organization. Additionally, the two-year investigation has resulted in the seizure of 22 pounds of methamphetamine, 10 firearms, $5,000 in currency, and four cars and two motorcycles valued at $25,000.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration Duty Task Force Group, which includes DEA, ATF, and Homeland Security Investigations special agents and Task Force Officers from Fort Smith Police Department, Van Buren Police Department, and the 15th Judicial District Drug Task Force. The investigation was assisted by the United States Marshals Service, Leflore County Drug Task Force, Leflore County Prosecutor’s Office, Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, and Sebastian County Prosecutor’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Clay Fowlkes and Candace Taylor prosecuted the case for the United States.