DEA arrest 15 in multi-state drug trafficking ring
Ring charged with distributing fentanyl, heroin, meth
ST. LOUIS – This week, the Drug Enforcement Administration St. Louis Division and U.S. Marshals Service arrested 15 people in three states linked to an organized multi-state drug trafficking conspiracy.
According to the previously sealed indictment, returned on September 16, 2020, this was a long-running drug distribution conspiracy operating throughout the Eastern District of Missouri, the Southern District of Illinois, the Western District of Missouri, and the District of Kansas. The court record reflects that during the investigation, law enforcement officers seized evidence that included approximately: (1) 1.7 kilograms of fentanyl; (2) 250 grams of fentanyl analogues; (3) 8 kilograms of heroin; (4) 13 kilograms of methamphetamine (ice); (5) $157,551.00 in United States currency; and (6) 15 firearms.
“Anytime we are able to dismantle an organization dealing in fentanyl, heroin and cocaine, it’s a big deal,” stated Special Agent in Charge William J. Callahan, who oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration St. Louis Division, which includes Missouri, Kansas and Southern Illinois. “DEA is out on the streets every day combating drug traffickers, bringing our significant investigative resources to target the command and control of drug trafficking organizations. The number of defendants in this indictment shows that we will find those who traffic drugs into the St. Louis area wherever they are.”
All of the below mentioned defendants are charged in the drug trafficking conspiracy. The indictment further charges Lee Garth, Jr. and Lee Garth, Sr. with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
The indicted defendants include:
JORGE LOPEZ-QUEZADA, 31, of Mexico;
YALITZA E. CALDERON-OLIVAS, 24, of Kansas City, Kan.;
BENIGNO MONTENEGRO, 36, of Kansas City, Mo.;
LEE P. GARTH JR., 35, of East St. Louis, Ill.;
LEE P. GARTH SR., 52, of Kansas City, Kan.;
TYDARRYL GRIFFIN, 45, of St. Louis;
WILLIE GRIFFIN, 51, of St. Louis;
JERMAINE J. JOHNSON, 48, of St. Louis;
DEVAUGHN M. LEE, 41, of St. Louis;
RON D. HILL, 40, of St. Louis;
BARNARD REED, 50, of St. Louis;
KEYSHIA S. HARRIS, 46, of St. Louis;
FAITH FITZPATRICK, 22, of Kansas City, Kan.;
CASSIDY GARTH, 26, of Belleville, Ill.; and
TERESA SMITH, 49, of Kansas City, Kan.
DEA is investigating the case, with assistance from the St. Charles County Police Department, the St. Louis County Police Department, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the FBI. The Office of the United States Attorney’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force is handling the case.
This investigation is part of Operation LeGend which is a federal partnership with local law enforcement to address the increase in homicides and violent crime in St. Louis in 2020. The operation honors the memory of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, one of the youngest fatalities during a record-breaking year of homicides and shootings. As part of Operation Legend, Attorney General Barr has directed federal agents from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, DEA and ATF to surge resources to these cities to help state and local officials fighting violent crime. The Department of Homeland Security is also contributing agents to these efforts in St. Louis.
This prosecution was also brought as a part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETFs) Co-located Strike Forces Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations against a continuum of priority targets and their affiliate illicit financial networks. These prosecutor-led co-located Strike Forces capitalize on the synergy created through the long-term relationships that can be forged by agents, analysts, and prosecutors who remain together over time, and they epitomize the model that has proven most effective in combating organized crime.
As is always the case, charges set forth in the indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.