Feds indict 9 from the Ozarks in meth conspiracy

MGN

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Nine individuals, primarily from West Plains, Mo., have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Howell, Greene, and Texas counties.

Shirley J. Hicks, 61, Raymon F. Ortega, 63, Benny D. Griffin, 57, Jose I. Gonzales, 37, Jordan W. Gutierrez, 25, and Shaun M. Ross, 39, all of West Plains, Missouri; Fontella J. Noose, 38, of Springfield, Missouri; James E. Cooper, 52, of Mountain View, Missouri; and Luis Ortiz Rodriguez, 36, address unknown, were charged in a 19-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield on Tuesday, Aug. 20. That indictment was unsealed and made public today upon the arrests and initial court appearances of Hicks, Ortega, Griffin, Cooper, and Ross.

The federal indictment alleges that each of the nine defendants participated in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Howell, Greene, and Texas counties from Dec. 31, 2015, to June 21, 2019.

In addition to the criminal conspiracy, Hicks is charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County and one count of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. Hicks allegedly was in possession of a Rohm .22-caliber revolver, a Lorcin .380-caliber pistol, a Hi-Point .40-caliber pistol, an FMJ .45-caliber derringer, a Jimenez Arms .22-caliber pistol, a Marlin .22-caliber rifle, a Browning 16-gauge shotgun, and a Remington .30-06 caliber rifle on July 24, 2018.

Ortega also is charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County, one count of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, and two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms. Ortega, who has previously been convicted of at least one felony offense, allegedly was in possession of a Jennings (Bryco) .380-caliber pistol, a Ruger 9mm pistol, and a Jennings (Jimenez Arms) 9mm pistol on May 7, 2018. Ortega allegedly was also in possession of a Ruger .22-caliber rifle, two Marlin .22-caliber rifles, and two Browning .22-caliber pistols on June 21, 2019.

Griffin also is charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County, one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Griffin, who has previously been convicted of at least one felony offense, allegedly was in possession of a Ruger .22-caliber pistol on Nov. 26, 2018.

Rodriguez also is charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County, one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Rodriguez, who has previously been convicted of at least one felony offense, allegedly was in possession of a Taurus .410-caliber revolver on Jan. 4, 2019.

Noose also is charged with one count of distributing methamphetamine in Greene County and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Noose, who has previously been convicted of at least one felony offense, allegedly was in possession of a Taurus .38-caliber revolver on Feb. 11, 2019.

Gonzalez also is charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County. Gutierrez also is charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Texas County. Ross and Cooper also are each charged with possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County.

The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require Ortega to forfeit to the government $10,924 that was seized by law enforcement officers; Hicks to forfeit to the government $20,393 that was seized by law enforcement officers; and Griffin to forfeit $16,078 that was seized by law enforcement officers. Ortega, Hicks, and Griffin would also be required to forfeit to the government a money judgment representing the proceeds obtained as a result of their participation in the alleged drug-trafficking conspiracy.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica R. Keller. It was investigated by the South Central Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Howell County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the West Plains, Mo., Police Department, and the Mountain View, Mo., Police Department.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.