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DEA-led investigation results in 10 defendants pleading guilty in million dollar meth conspiracy

(OVERLAND PARK, Kan.) ––Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge of DEA’s Kansas City District Office Troy Derby today announced that ten individuals pled guilty to a million dollar meth conspiracy responsible for distributing a minimum of 30 kilograms of methamphetamine in and around the Kansas City metropolitan area. 

“These individuals represent some of the worst members of our community,” said Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Derby. “Distributing this poison, with no regard for the impact it represents to our neighborhoods, is reprehensible. DEA is proud of the relationships we have with our state and local counterparts, ensuring individuals like the ones charged ultimately face justice for the devastation they cause in our communities.”

The following individuals all pled guilty to charges resulting from the conspiracy: Travis L. Bethel, 46, of Urbana, Missouri; Kenneth B. Lake, 56, of Strafford, Missouri; Jake I. Nixon, 20, Kara R. Baze, 23, Michelle V. Gray, 50, and Scott B. Sands, 52, of Springfield, Missouri; Jerry L. Brown, 43, of Lebanon, Missouri; Breann N. Hall, 25, of Ozark, Missouri; Tara L. Harken, 45, of Marion, Illinois, and Cindy A. Nevatt, 63, of Gulf Shores, Alabama. 

During this investigation, investigators discovered the co-conspirators were involved in shipping methamphetamine through the United States Postal Service to co-conspirators residences, moved drug proceeds and illegally obtained assets to/from those residences, and were involved in money laundering activities to facilitate the drug conspiracy. Baze, Harken, Hall and Nevatt admitted they were involved in the drug conspiracy by facilitating drug trafficking across state lines while also being involved in money laundering and other activities designed to conceal illegally obtained drug proceeds, while Lake, Bethel, Sands and Brown admitted they were involved in distributing a minimum of five kilograms of methamphetamine while also participating in collecting drug proceeds. Nixon was arrested on several different occasions for possession of methamphetamine and firearms, while Gray admitted she knowingly had methamphetamine shipped to her residence to actively facilitate this drug trafficking conspiracy. Under the terms of their plea agreements, Lake, Bethel, Nixon, Sands and Brown must forfeit to the government up to $1,060,070, which represents the proceeds of drug trafficking based on a conservative average street price of $1,000 per ounce of 90 percent pure methamphetamine and the total conspiracy distribution of at least 30 kilograms of methamphetamine.

Under federal statutes, Bethel is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole. Lake, Sands and Brown are each subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole. Nixon is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole. Gray is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole. Baze, Hall, Harken and Nevatt are each subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Buchanan County, Missouri, Drug Strike Force, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department, the Springfield, Missouri, Police Department, the Lake Area Narcotics Enforcement Group, the US Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Bruce Rhodes, with the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri.


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