News Release
October 15, 2008
Contact: Thomas E. Murphy
(314) 538-4660

Four More Plead Guilty to Multi-Million Dollar Meth Conspiracy

OCT 15 -- ( SPRINGFIELD, Mo.) – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that four more defendants have pleaded guilty to their roles in a conspiracy to distribute millions of dollars worth of methamphetamine in Barton County, Mo., and elsewhere. Operation Buckshot is a multi-agency investigation into a large-scale drug-trafficking conspiracy that involved the distribution of methamphetamine from California through Kansas City, Mo., and into southwest Missouri. The investigation involved numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Zachary G. Erwin , 25, of Nevada, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. England this morning to participating in a conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of pure methamphetamine from December 2005 to Aug. 31, 2007. Co-defendants Ronald L. Hampton, 37, of Liberal, Mo., Moises Medina , 49, of Pueblo, Colo., and! Michael L. Wilson , 32, of Lamar, Mo., pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008. Hampton also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and to illegally possessing a firearm. Medina also pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute in excess of 500 grams of methamphetamine. Each of the defendants admitted that the amount of pure methamphetamine attributable to him is more than 1.5 kilograms.

Medina admitted that he drove a Chevrolet Trailblazer, carrying more than 11 kilograms of methamphetamine, from Colorado to Kansas City, Kan., in August 2007. Police officers discovered 26 individually wrapped packages containing 11.62 kilograms (approximately 25 pounds) of methamphetamine in a hidden compartment of the vehicle.

Wilson admitted that he received multi-pound deliveries of methamphetamine from suppliers based in California. Those suppliers used couriers to transport the methamphetamine to Kansas City or occasionally to Lamar. Wilson then distributed the methamphetamine to his distributors in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Wilson’s ! residence on July 11, 2007, seizing approximately three kilograms of methamphetamine, $37,880 and two vehicles that were used to facilitate the conspiracy.

Hampton was arrested on Feb. 28, 2007, while in possession of 177.1 grams of pure methamphetamine, which has been fronted (provided on consignment) by Wilson for $19,200, and a Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistol. Law enforcement officers also seized 24 firearms from Hampton’s residence.

Nine co-defendants have pleaded guilty to the charges contained in an Oct. 3, 2007, federal superseding indictment.

Brandon R. Stone , 26, of Nevada, Mo., Roderick P. Conway , 38, and Harold Heath Foster , 33, both of Lamar, Mo., Dustin L. Vittetoe , 34, of Horton, Mo., and David C. Paniagua , 39, of Highland, Calif., have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy. Each of the defendants admitted that the amount of pure methamphetamine attributable to him is more than 1.5 kilograms.

Under federal statutes, Erwin , Hampton , Medina and Wilson are each subject to a mandatory sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole. Hampton is also subject to an additional consecutive mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison without parole, up to life in federal prison without parole, for the firearms conviction.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Rush. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the sheriff’s departments of Vernon, Barton, and Jasper Counties, CNET (the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the police departments of Lamar, Mo., and Nevada, Mo.