FORT SMITH — U.S. Attorney Duane (DAK) Kees said 15 people in the Harrison area were arrested by local, state and federal officers Wednesday as part of a months-long investigation into methamphetamine trafficking in Boone County.
Fourteen defendants were arrested on federal charges stemming from an investigation which occurred over much of the last calendar year.
Three additional, related defendants — Jason Alvarez, Walter Alvarez and Daniel Perez-Lebron — had been arrested on federal charges in April after a significant seizure of meth at a residence near Alpena and were in custody as of Wednesday, Kees said in a statement.
According to a probable cause arrest affidavit, the FBI had been investigating the drug trafficking organization in Boone and Carroll counties and beyond beginning in October 2018.
In February of this year, federal Judge P.K. Holmes III authorized wire and electronic interceptions to and from a telephone used by a retail meth distributor in the Harrison area (the FBI withheld the identity of that individual, who is not a cooperating witness, for his/her personal safety).
Those interceptions showed the individual using that phone was supplied with meth by Jason Alvarez, who was known as “Big Boy,” and that Perez-Lebron was associated with Jason Alvarez. Perez-Lebron was allegedly a wholesale meth distributor and collector of money from retail distributors like the user of the tapped phone.
That phone user told investigators Jason Alvarez would receive meth in liquid form “clean” it using acetone to convert it to a solid form, resulting in about 100 pounds of meth per shipment.
The affidavit said investigation revealed Walter Alvarez, the father of Jason Alvarez, owned a piece of property at 15220 U.S. Highway 412 near Alpena.
During the week of April 1 of this year, investigators determined Jason Alvarez and Perez-Lebron were in the process of converting meth at Walter Alvarez’s home near Alpena. A search warrant executed at the residence yielded more than 100 pounds of suspected meth, some of which had been packaged for transport and/or sale.
On May 8, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging 21 additional individuals in the Harrison area with a large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy related to the Alvarez arrests.
The indictments included a total of 15 counts, all of which involved the distribution of methamphetamine. The indictments were unsealed Wednesday as a part of the FBI’s enforcement activities in the Harrison area.
The individuals named in the indictment unsealed Wednesday are:
• Zachery Lee Manning
• Nathan Ron Collins
• Robert Leroy Black
• Champayne Lamar Manning
• Jerry Don “JD” Richardson
• Louis Marcil III, also known as “Caveman”
• Christy Lynn Reynolds
• Malia Anne McEaney
• Sydney Lynn Martin
• Amanda Marie Wall
• Samantha Marie Fitzpatrick
• Sherrie “Shey” Denise Snelling, also known as Sherrie Denise Glover
• Michael Allan Barnett
• James Andrew “Andy” Davidson
• Jessica Chelsea Starkey
• Cristen Shillings, also known as Cristen Currey Morris
• Hailey Danielle Doss-Triplett
• Steven Ray Kollin
• Darian Brittain
• Brayden Thomas Cornelius
• Lindsey Brooke Johnson, also known as Lindsey Brooke Campbell and Lindsey Brooke Thomason
“Today’s arrests would not have been possible without the dedicated assistance of our partners with the 14th Judicial Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Boone County Sheriff, the Harrison Police Department, the Arkansas National Guard, and the assistance of other FBI field offices,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch of the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office. “We all remain dedicated to the eradication of illegal drug trafficking organizations from our great state. We are all also very thankful for the hard work and assistance of our partners with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas and the 14th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.”
David Ethredge, Prosecuting Attorney for the 14th Judicial District stated, “The success of this operation is the direct result of the outstanding cooperation between all of these law enforcement professionals. Because of these efforts the influx of methamphetamine into our community and its distribution has been severely disrupted. This would not have been possible without the great working relationship with the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI , for which my office is very grateful. Our area is extremely fortunate to have all of these dedicated individuals serving our citizens.”
The defendants who were arrested Wednesday will be scheduled to appear in the United States District in Fort Smith before United States Magistrate Judge Mark Ford in the coming days, Kees said in a statement.
Wednesday’s enforcement activities were part of the Western District of Arkansas’ Operation Iced Ozarks, which is part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force program.
An indictment is merely an accusation, Kees said. An arrest warrant represents a finding of probable cause. A person is presumed innocent unless or until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.