Southeast Kansas drug ring busted in ‘Operation Spring Cleaning’
PITTSBURG, Kan. — Southeast Kansas law enforcement agencies may not have seized any meth labs last year, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t investigating those involved in trafficking the drug.
Nine people were arrested for methamphetamine distribution Wednesday and three more arrests were “pending” after authorities executed warrants in Allen and Neosho counties as part of an eight-month investigation called “Operation Spring Cleaning,” the Kansas Bureau of Investigation has announced.
Those arrested Wednesday include Chanute residents Shadow McKinney, 28, Kerry Wilson, 41, Anna Stockenbrand, 31, Gina Perez, 37, Michael Naff, 35, and Markus Steeves, 47; Iola residents Ellen Fisher, 34, and Quintin Obermiller, 30; and 36-year-old Dedra Bright of Cherryville. “Pending arrests” connected to the operation include Kevin Pratt, 45, and Jessica Rogers, 39, of Iola and Timothy Mishler, 30, of Chanute.
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law, the KBI noted in its press release.
Shortly before noon Thursday, KBI Communications Director Melissa Underwood said in an email that Pratt, Rogers and Mishler had still not been located or taken into custody.
Underwood also said the arrests were only for distribution, rather than manufacture, of methamphetamine.
“Manufacturing of methamphetamine (meth labs) is typically not as profitable in Kansas because the price of methamphetamine is down, and it is widely available because it is imported in primarily from Mexico,” she said.
Local, state and federal agencies, including the KBI, Chanute Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Allen County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were involved in Wednesday’s arrests.
While serving one of the arrest warrants, at 804 N. Garfield in Chanute, law enforcement found suspicious explosive devices, according to the release. The ATF and KHP Hazardous Device Unit responded to assist with safely removing the devices and to aid in the investigation. In addition to drug distribution charges, Steeves was charged with criminal use of an explosive.
Suspects arrested including McKinney, Wilson, Stockenbrand, Perez, Naff, and Steeves were charged with distribution of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school, while the others were simply charged with distribution of methamphetamine.
Arrest warrants executed this week as part of Operation Spring Cleaning were issued with assistance from the Neosho County Attorney’s Office, the Allen County Attorney’s Office, and the US Attorney’s Office. Those arrested were booked into the Neosho and Allen County jails. The cases will be prosecuted by Neosho County Attorney Linus Thuston, Allen County Attorney Jerry Hathaway, and Assistant Allen County Attorney Jacqie Spradling, according to the release.
“The joint operation represented a coordinated law enforcement effort to reduce the accessibility of illegal drugs impacting Southeast Kansas,” the KBI said in its release. “This investigation is ongoing.”