OKLAHOMA CITY – A Beckham County man identified as a member of a white-supremacist gang was sentenced recently to serve 25 years in federal prison for his involvement in a methamphetamine distribution conspiracy orchestrated from a state prison. It marked the fourth time this year that individuals implicated in a major drug ring operated from Oklahoma’s prison system were indicted or sentenced in Oklahoma’s Western District federal court.
Colby Scott Shepherd, 37, of Elk City, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot to 300 months in federal prison – beginning only after he completes all of the remaining time of incarceration imposed for his nearly two dozen state convictions.
Most recently Shepherd was incarcerated in Davis Correctional Facility at Holdenville, state Corrections Department records reflect.
DRUG RING USED CELL PHONES
A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment in February 2019 charging Shepherd with a drug conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty in September 2019 to a sole count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
According to court documents and public records, Shepherd was a member of the Universal Aryan Brotherhood incarcerated in an Oklahoma prison serving time for multiple state convictions.
Despite being in prison, Shepherd and other members of the UAB orchestrated a drug-trafficking operation, primarily focused on the distribution of methamphetamine, using contraband cell phones. Shepherd and his associates used other non-incarcerated members and contacts of the UAB to facilitate the distribution of methamphetamine and collection of drug proceeds throughout western Oklahoma. Ultimately Shepherd conducted a series of narcotics transactions with an undercover officer in November 2018 During the final transaction, Shepherd coordinated a delivery in Oklahoma City for pounds of methamphetamine – but law enforcement officers intercepted his confederate with the narcotics and a gun at the delivery location.
All four drug operations were directed with the use of contraband mobile telephones, corrections and law enforcement officials said.
“We find a lot of cell phones” in the state prison system, Justin Wolf, director of communications and government relations for the state Department of Corrections, said in August. “Some are barely bigger than a finger and can be easily concealed.”
DOC officers have seized more than 58,750 cell phones in the last 10 years, including 5,183 during the first 11 months of this year, Wolf said. In accordance with state law, the confiscated ’phones are sold or destroyed, he said.
Citizens and public officials alike often ask why prison officials don’t jam the signals from convicts’ telephones. To do so would violate federal law, Wolf said. The Federal Communications Commission regulates the airwaves “and forbids us from interfering with phone waves,” he said.
As a result, correctional officers focus their efforts on detection and interdiction, Wolf said.
JUDGE EXPLAINS LENGTHY SENTENCE
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Friot commented on Shepherd’s continued propensity to engage in criminal activity and lack of deterrence despite being incarcerated as the reason for the lengthy sentence.
Shepherd’s attorneys notified the court of his intention to appeal the sentence to the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
“I hope Universal Aryan Brotherhood members take note of this federal sentence as they continue their dangerous gang activities from state prison and conspire to distribute drugs in our state,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing. “This case is another reminder that contraband cell phones in our prisons remain a major public safety issue and our office will continue to vigorously pursue criminals who continue to distribute drugs in our state even after they are incarcerated.”
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) “will never relent in our efforts to hold criminals accountable while protecting the general public,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, special agent in charge HSI Dallas. “This felon’s attempt to sustain his illegal drug dealing business while incarcerated highlights the distance he went for personal gain. This result serves as a stark reminder that HSI’s reach has no limits.”
Shepherd’s codefendant in the case, Michael Lee Chism, 46, previously pleaded guilty to possession of 500 or more grams of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, along with possession of a .45-caliber pistol in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. He was sentenced in May to serve five years in federal prison.
BOTH FELONS HAVE DRUG CONVICTIONS
Records of the Oklahoma State Courts Network and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections show that Shepherd and Chism both have records of drug convictions.
Chism was first convicted at age 30 of possession of a controlled dangerous substance, and received probation. The court was told he “has an extensive substance abuse history, beginning as a teenager, for which he has never received any significant treatment.”
Chism reportedly received a full scholarship from Oklahoma City University for academics and classical piano, but attended only one semester, the court was told, because “that was around the years when he started using drugs...”
Shepherd has 22 previous state convictions for felony and misdemeanor offenses in Oklahoma, Beckham, Custer, Washita and Rogers Mills counties over the past 18 years, records show: 13 for manufacture or possession of narcotics and for possession of drug paraphernalia, four for eluding or obstructing a police officers and one for resisting arrest, one for using a weapon in the commission of a crime, and three for driving while his license was suspended or revoked.
“My addiction has had a stranglehold on me since I was 14 years old,” Shepherd claimed in a handwritten letter to a Beckham County judge four years ago.