Feds indict 20 for shipping pounds of meth to Arkansas

Feds indict 20 for shipping pounds of meth to Arkansas

The U.S. Attorney’s office calls it one of the largest methamphetamine drug ring takedowns in recent memory. A total of 20 people indicted are indicted as part of “Operation Big Winner.” Nine made their first appearance in federal court Tuesday afternoon, some of them running from our cameras.
Feds indict 20 for shipping methamphetamine
Feds indict 20 for shipping methamphetamine
Feds indict 20 for shipping methamphetamine
Feds indict 20 for shipping methamphetamine
Feds indict 20 for shipping methamphetamine
Feds indict 20 for shipping methamphetamine
Feds indict 20 for shipping methamphetamine
Feds indict 20 for shipping methamphetamine
Feds indict 20 for shipping methamphetamine
Feds indict 20 for shipping methamphetamine
U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer announcing "Operation Big Winner", 20 indicted for 5-year meth conspiracy
U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer announcing "Operation Big Winner", 20 indicted for 5-year meth conspiracy
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The U.S. Attorney’s office calls it one of the largest methamphetamine drug ring takedowns in recent memory. A total of 20 people indicted are indicted as part of “Operation Big Winner.” Nine made their first appearance in federal court Tuesday afternoon, some of them running from our cameras.

Chris Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, says the drug ring operated since 2006 out of Kensett in White County and Austin in Lonoke County.

As of Tuesday, 17 defendants are in custody.

This investigation targeted a large scale drug trafficking operation distributing multi-pound quantities of methamphetamine ice in the central Arkansas area. The U.S. attorney’s office says the drugs were smuggled from Mexico to Kensett, AR to the home of Christian and Gladis Maldonado.

FOX16 News found many of the indicted walking out of federal court Tuesday afternoon after their first appearance before a magistrate judge, including Michael Leszczyna, 31, of Lonoke.

Leszczyna, aka “Mike D” in the 13-page indictment, denied being involved in the case when FOX16 News questioned him about it. He then grabbed a copy of the indictment out of the hand of the reporter and proceeded to rip it up while making obscene hand gestures.

William J. Bryant, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says investigators spent the last eight months breaking up a world of drugs, guns & vehicles.

“This made a huge impact I think in central Arkansas,” Bryant says. “Just think of the amount of five to ten pounds (of ice) per week, that’s drugs that are not getting out to our citizens now. I think that’s a huge impact.”

Detectives from Lonoke, White, Pulaski & Jefferson County worked on the case in conjunction with the DEA. When arrests began Friday, seven pounds of ice were recovered from the home of Daniel Henry in Austin, AR. Bryant says the ice is valued at $20,000 per pound.

According to investigators the Maldonado’s would provide ice to Henry who would then supply it to others in the conspiracy for sale.

Dustin Dyer, a Benton defense attorney, is also named in the indictment but not as part of the conspiracy. Count 18 of the indictment says Dyer used a phone with the intent to conspire to distribute methamphetamine. Bryant says he was representing one of the defendants when he became part of the case himself.

Seventeen of the defendants are charged with conspiracy with intent to distribute over 500 grams of methamphetamine. Federal sentencing guidelines for that charge carry a penalty of 10-40 years in prison and a $10 million fine.

Investigators are still looking for the remaining defendants, Aleisha Johnston, Jason Holmes, and Oather Fulmer.

“Operation Big Winner” got its name from one of the indicted, Daniel Henry, who won $100,000 from the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery in 2010.
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