Dozens of law enforcement officers arrested 31 suspects in a drug roundup Tuesday, and 12 other suspects are sought in what sheriff’s officials dubbed “Operation Pillaging.”
About 75 officers from local and state agencies, aided by a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter, organized into eight teams to serve 42 arrest warrants throughout Brown County, Sheriff Bobby Grubbs said. The warrants stemmed from sealed indictments, issued earlier this month by the Brown County Grand Jury, for engaging in organized crime.
A person who was not named in the indictments was among those arrested and was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana, sheriff’s officials said. The names of three still being sought were not released.
The offenses alleged in the indictments are surrounding the manufacture, possession, or distribution of methamphetamine, Grubbs said.
The grand jury indictments were a result of an extensive investigation lead by the Criminal Investigations Division, the sheriff said.
Operation Pillaging “has dismantled a significant methamphetamine manufacturing organization and will significantly enhance the safety of the citizens of Brown County for some time to come,” Grubbs said in a press release.
In a press release, Grubbs presented an overview of Operation Pillaging:
Over the last eight months the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, along with Early Police Department, has been involved in the investigation of the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine in the Brown County, Texas area. Beginning in 2006, three groups organized to acquire pseudoephedrine (a precursor to methamphetamine) and to manufacture methamphetamine. Numerous individuals conspired to travel all over Central Texas to obtain this pseudoephedrine from various pharmacies.
The Texas Legislature has passed laws to assist in controlling pseudoephedrine purchase for the purpose of manufacturing methamphetamine and officers followed these laws in the course of this investigation.
In the past, clandestine meth labs have been a serious problem but these laws have significantly reduced the manufacture by tightening restrictions on pseudoephedrine purchases. As always the criminal element tries to find ways to circumvent the system.
In this case, methamphetamine manufacturers, known as “cooks,” created a marketing scheme by using surrogates to purchase pseudoephedrine for an exchange of the final product. Typically, the “cook” will provide up to one half gram of methamphetamine per box of pseudoephedrine to the surrogate who acquired the pseudoephedrine.
This provides the methamphetamine “cook” with the primary chemical needed to produce methamphetamine and gives the methamphetamine “consumer” the end-product, methamphetamine, at a reduced rate.
During debriefings, many suspects in this case referred to shopping for pills as “pillaging”, which is a play on the phrase, “to plunder and pillage.”
In this investigation, officers targeted the manufacturers as well as the surrogate-consumers in the organization.
The two Sheriff’s Office case agents are Sgt. Tony Aaron and Jason Benefield, and investigator Shawn Dibrell is the case agent for the Early Police Department, Grubbs said.
The following agencies played an important roll in the success of this investigation, Grubbs said:
Early Police Department, Brownwood Police Department, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency - Dallas Field Division, West Central Texas Inter Local Crime Task Force, Texas Department of Public Safety: Texas Rangers, Aircraft Section-Waco, Motor Vehicle Theft Service, and the Texas Highway Patrol Service, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Brown County District Attorney’s Office, and Brown County Adult Probation Office.
On Aug. 7, cases were presented to the 35th Judicial District Grand Jury and indictments were handed down on the following defendants:
Candi Bailey, Stephanie Baker, Stephen Barbaree, Carrie Beane, Michael Bowen, James Box, Aaron Browder, Lisa Brown, Sean Brown, Paul Buffington, Ashley Busche, Billy Chancellor, David Cockroft, Patricia Coffey, Rebecca Covington, Jessie Crouch, Brenda Edwards, Sandra Elliott, Shanda Foster, Chester Horton, Merci Horton, Tabatha Hyles, Megan (Lana) Iron, Richard Ivey, Robert Jones, Kathy Maxwell, John McDonald, Ashley Montemayor, David Olin, Angela Proctor, Verna Romines, Judy Shank, David Stewart, Michael Sutherland, Morrisa Sutherland, Emilio Torres, Robert Walker, Justin Wallace and Arlyn Williams.