The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

October 11, 2012

Huntsville cracks down on drugs

HUNTSVILLE — Thirteen Huntsville-area residents were arrested on federal drug and weapon charges following a sweep Thursday morning by local, state and federal authorities in one of the county’s largest narcotics investigations ever.

The Walker County Sheriff’s Office and Huntsville Police Department announced Thursday afternoon that they had taken into custody a group of Huntsville residents on warrants for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana and the illegal possession of weapons.

Those arrested Thursday include Jeramy Jerome Gage, 31, Mark Wayne Wheeler, 42, Annie Mae Ball, 54, Jeffrey Ray Johnson, 26, Lawrence Perry, 33, Ramola Kaye Brown, 30, Samira Mailka Bonds, 33, Kenneth Ray O’Bryant, 30, Michael Andrew Williams, 23, Lloyd Glen O’Bryant, 33, and Gregory McFadden, 31.

Lee Partin, no age available, was arrested at Sam Houston State University without incident on a federal weapons charge Thursday. Huntsville Police Chief Kevin Lunsford said that officers were able to take Partin into custody as he was going to class.

Two others — Dennis Rogers Haynes, 53, and Scotty Porter, 24 — are considered fugitives and a warrant has been issued for their arrests. Anyone with information on the two fugitives still being sought is asked to contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at 281-716-8230 or the Drug Enforcement Administration at 713-693-3000.

Herratio Hans Hedspetch, 39, of Huntsville was arrested Thursday night in Houston. He had been out of state when other arrests were made and was detained after getting off a flight at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The arrests stem from a two-year investigation initiated by the sheriff’s office and HPD after it was discovered that a large amount of narcotics were being distributed in Walker County. They notified state and federal agencies to assist as part of a drug enforcement task force and Operation Piney Woods was launched to bring down the ring.

“Not too far into the investigation we realized the magnitude of it was actually a little larger than we thought. At that point we notified the federal agencies and (Texas Department of Public Safety) and joined forces,” Walker County Sheriff Clint McRae said. “It was later determined that this organization we were dealing with expanded all the way from the Houston area to the Dallas region.

“A large portion of narcotics were coming into to Texas by these individuals, specifically here in Walker County.”

Following the investigation, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced that two separate indictments were handed down by a grand jury Sept. 26 involving the drug conspiracy, paving the way for law enforcement to make arrests.

Gage, Wheeler, Ball, Johnson, Perry and Brown are accused of conspiring to obtain and sell five or more kilograms of cocaine and more than 50 kilograms of marijuana since last year. Wheeler is also being charged with illegal possession of a weapon by a felon.

Kenneth O’Bryant, Lloyd O’Bryant, Williams, McFadden, Hedspetch, Haynes and Porter are accused of conspiring to obtain and sell five or more kilograms of cocaine since early 2011 in a separate but related indictment.

“I don’t have exactly the (amount of drugs), but I can tell you that has been several, several kilos of cocaine and marijuana, probably in access of 30 or so kilos of cocaine and more than that in marijuana plus the weapons,” Lunsford said.

Each person faces 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine. The federal government also will seek $500,000 in the first indictment and $200,000 in the second.

A total of 33 arrest warrants were issued as a result of the investigation and 23 people, some of whom are from Houston, have been taken into custody on federal and state drug and weapon violations.

“Some of this is still ongoing and we are wrapping it up, but we are well on our way,” McRae said. “This is going to be one of the largest narcotics-related impacts in the Walker County area, to my knowledge, in history.”

The ATF, Drug Enforcement Agency, Madison and Walker counties district attorney’s offices, the United States Marshals Service, Houston Police Department, Montgomery and Harris counties sheriff’s offices and Texas Department of Criminal Justice Office of Inspector General were also part of the investigation.

“(The level of cooperation between law enforcement agencies) in this case was unprecedented,” ATF Special Agent Melvin King said. “It just goes to show what we can do when we work together as federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to bring these people to justice.”

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