TERRE HAUTE —
The indictment and arrest of 19 alleged methamphetamine traffickers in the Terre Haute area is expected to put a kink in the local supply chain of methamphetamine and marijuana, at least temporarily.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials are still trying to figure out how an Indiana prison inmate was able to obtain a cell phone and coordinate the activities of the meth trafficking organization operating in Terre Haute.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley A. Blackington said Thursday that Wesley S. Hammond Jr., 39, an inmate in the New Castle Correctional Institution, was using the contraband cell phone to communicate with his girlfriend in Terre Haute.
That girlfriend, Jennifer Poltrock, 28, was included in the indictment and is charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. She allegedly served as Hammond’s lieutenant in Terre Haute and distributed methamphetamine and marijuana to drug dealers who worked for Hammond.
Hammond’s primary methamphetamine dealers allegedly included Dustin M. McCombs, 22, David J. Pitts, 39, Bradley S. Shelton, 34, and Jwuan Moreland, 35, all of Terre Haute, and Antrio D. Hammond, 31, of Indianapolis, who is Wesley Hammond’s brother.
Those suspects were included in the indictment along with Rae Anna Johnson, 65, Keith C. Pitts, 19, John Mikolajczyk, 41, Jeffrey L. Denny, 34, Megan E. Samuels, 21, Michael E. Adkins, 26, Herbert D. Phipps, 53, Ahmad Hadi, 50, Dennis D. Plummer, 36, Melissa Van Ness, 36, Timothy Bailey, 48, and Susie Annette Smith, all of Terre Haute. Smith is Hammond’s mother.
All 19 defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. In addition, Shelton is charged with a separate count of distribution of methamphetamine.
Blackington explained that this meth distribution ring formed to fill a gap in the local supply chain that occurred after the December 2008 indictment and arrest of the Robin Welker/Vicki Shaw meth ring that saw 20 people arrested on federal drug charges.
“We have information that the day after that takedown [Welker/Shaw], there was a meeting by this group on how to fill the demand,” Blackington said.
“We hope this has a big impact on the availability of meth,” he said, noting that the source of the drug was out of state. However, he noted that just as in the months following the takedown of the Welker/Shaw meth ring, police expect to see an increase in the number of “mom and pop” meth labs as local addicts try to make their own drugs in clandestine labs.
“You would think that after several years of us doing these cases that people would think twice about it,” Blackington said of the organized meth rings.
The investigation into Hammond’s organization began last fall, Blackington said, and it came together around Dec. 30 when an informant made a controlled purchase of drugs from Shelton.
Blackington estimated the ring was dealing 10 to 15 pounds of meth per month, which was more than the Welker/Shaw ring. The organization also began dealing a large quantity of marijuana when members realized their meth trafficking operation was being noticed by authorities, he said.
Hammond was sentenced to 15 years in prison in April 2008 on a Vigo County conviction for dealing cocaine. He also had prior convictions for dealing cocaine.
How he came into possession of the cell phone while in prison is a concern for the Department of Correction.
DOC Spokesman Doug Garrison told the Tribune-Star that cell phone trafficking is a big problem at the state’s prison facilities.
There have been instances of people wrapping cell phones in duct tape and concealing them inside a body cavity, throwing cell phones over the prison walls for inmates to retrieve, and prison staff have occasionally been known to traffic in cell phones, Garrison said.
All facilities routinely conduct shakedowns of cells and dorm areas, he said, but the availability of the small devices, as well as their chargers, is an ongoing problem.
Hammond is believed to have sent many text messages from prison.
“We’ve examined the phone records and usage,” Blackington told media during a press conference at Terre Haute Police headquarters, “and he was using the cell phone much more than I do, and much more than probably anyone else in this room does. If there’s anywhere you shouldn’t be able to run a meth ring from, it’s a prison.”
He indicated, however, that once investigators learned that Hammond possessed the phone, that information was used to further the investigation.
The investigation led to the following drug and currency seizures in the Terre Haute area:
• Two ounces of methamphetamine allegedly purchased from Shelton on Dec. 30.
• One ounce of methamphetamine allegedly seized from Hadi on March 22.
• One ounce of methamphetamine allegedly seized from Mikolajczyk on March 23.
• Five ounces of methamphetamine allegedly seized from Shelton on March 26.
• Ten pounds of marijuana allegedly seized from Bailey on March 26.
• 210 pounds of marijuana and 11 ounces of methamphetamine allegedly seized from the South 14th Street home of Poltrock on March 26.
• $80,880 allegedly seized from the North 16th Street residence of Smith on March 26.
Law enforcement officers from the region participated in the execution of arrest and search warrants.
Most of the defendants, if convicted, face maximum possible sentences of life imprisonment.
Initial hearings will begin at 9 a.m. Monday for some of the defendants before a U.S. magistrate judge at the federal courthouse in Terre Haute.
Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or email@example.com.