OKLAHOMA CITY – Seven search warrants and 35 arrest warrants executed in Anadarko and Chickasha last Friday disrupted the third major drug ring known to have been directed from inside state prison.
All three 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 Monday. “Some are barely bigger than a finger and can be easily concealed.”
DOC officers have seized 56,699 cell phones in the last 10 years, including 3,125 this year, Wolf said Monday.
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. “That’s how we were able to identify the inmates” who were directing the Southwest Oklahoma drug ring. “We’re working with state partners to stop these things.”
FORMER GRID STAR ARRESTED IN RAID
Law enforcement officers descended on Anadarko and began executing search and arrest warrants at 6 a.m. Aug. 14, said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.
Several pounds of methamphetamine, several mobile phones and a quantity of drug paraphernalia were confiscated during the raids, Woodward said. The suspects also trafficked in pills and marijuana, investigators said.
The officers said most of the drug traffickers were arrested in Anadarko but a few were picked up in Chickasha.
“I don’t know that Anadarko has seen 100 police officers or law enforcement officers in town all at once ever before,” Anadarko Police Chief Eric Harlan told an Oklahoma City news media outlet.
Among the suspects taken into custody was Sheldon Wilson, 27, a former Anadarko gridiron standout who was to have been a local football coach.
Anadarko Public Schools released the following statement about Wilson’s arrest:
“We are saddened, shocked, and disappointed at the arrest of Sheldon Wilson this morning. Sheldon was a tremendous athlete and enjoyed much athletic success during his playing days at Anadarko High School.
Sheldon was planning to serve as a lay coach on the football staff for the upcoming season, but as a result of this incident that will not occur.”
PROBE SPANNED YEAR AND A HALF
The investigation started in January 2019, law enforcement officials said.
“Over 18 months, we were able to identify basically the entire network and take them all out in one quick move,” Woodward said.
Besides the OBNDD and the Anadarko P.D., others reportedly involved in the investigation and raids were the Caddo County Sheriff’s Office, the District 6 Drug Task Force, and the state Corrections Department’s Office of Inspector General.
The Southwest Oklahoma drug trafficking ring allegedly was directed by two men, Clifton Dewayne Wilson and David Clayton Duncan.
Both men are currently incarcerated in the state penitentiary at McAlester. Although both suspects are in prison, “they still had access to a contraband cell phone” with which they allegedly directed “their operation,” Woodward said.
On Aug. 14, Caddo County District Attorney Jason Hicks charged Wilson with three counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled dangerous substances, and charged Duncan with four counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
Corrections Department records show Wilson, 48, has been convicted in Caddo, Grady and Atoka counties on charges of robbery with a dangerous weapon, drug pos- session with intent to distribute, assault and battery on a police officer, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and carrying a weapon, drugs or alcohol into a jail.
Duncan, 30, amassed 10 felony convictions from Cleveland County in 2009-11, records of the DOC and the Oklahoma State Courts Network show. Those included trafficking in illegal drugs, distribution of a controlled dangerous substance within 2,000 feet of a park or school, assault and battery with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm into a dwelling, eluding a police officer, pointing a firearm, and four counts of possession of a controlled substance.
KILLER’S ALLEGED RING RUN FROM HOLDENVILLE
An inmate serving a 35-year state prison sentence for second-degree murder also is accused of running a large- scale drug trafficking operation from his prison cell.
A federal grand jury on June 4 indicted Richard Leroy, a/k/a “Solo,” 34, of eight counts of possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute and one count of drug conspiracy. Leroy is alleged to have controlled his drug conspiracy via use of contraband cell phones while incarcerated in the privately operated Davis Correctional Facility at Holdenville.
Leroy was indicted June 4 in Oklahoma City’s Western District federal court.
The indictment alleges that, over a two-year period, Leroy used contraband cell phones to coordinate both the acquisition and distribution of large amounts of methamphetamine and heroin.
He accomplished this by recruiting and using non-incarcerated co-conspirators to serve as his de facto presence on the streets, U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing said.
The indictment lays out eight separate instances during the period of the conspiracy in which Leroy is alleged to have possessed – through his third-party couriers – significant amounts of either methamphetamine or heroin.
All told, the indictment alleges that Leroy was running a drug conspiracy capable of moving hundreds of pounds of controlled substances each year – all without ever leaving his prison cell.
DOC records indicate Leroy is still incarcerated at Holdenville. His case is scheduled on the criminal jury docket that starts Sept. 8 in OKC federal district court.
Leroy was charged in Oklahoma County with two counts of first-degree murder in 2007, but pleaded guilty in 2009 to two counts of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 45 years’ incarceration, with 10 years suspended.
Leroy’s criminal record includes several other convictions: second-degree burglary (2006), concealing stolen property (2006), possession of methamphetamine (2008), possession of drug paraphernalia (2008), possession of marijuana (2008), making a false declaration of ownership to a pawnbroker (2009), and possession of contraband in a penal institution (2009).
KANSAS DRUG RING RUN FROM McALESTER PEN
A 55-count federal indictment issued in March named 24 defendants and alleged that a convicted killer also directed a drug ring in Wichita, Kan., from his prison cell in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary with the assistance of a double-murderer from Comanche County.
Travis Knighten, 48, convicted of murder in Kansas, is alleged to have been the brains behind a criminal organization that distributed methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine powder, crack cocaine, and marijuana in Wichita, Kan., from Knighten’s cell at McAlester’s maximum-security state penitentiary.
Knighten purportedly put together deals with the assis- tance of a co-defendant who also was an inmate at McAlester: Armando Luna, 41.
Luna is serving a life sentence without parole for a guilty plea in 2014 to the first-degree murder of a fellow inmate at the private prison near Lawton in 2012, state court records ref lect. At the time, Luna was already serving a life sentence on a conviction for a murder committed in Tulsa County in 2007.
The 22 other defendants are all residents of Wichita, Kan., federal records indicate.
Luna remains in the McAlester penitentiary, DOC records reflect. Knighten was transferred to the Butler County Detention Center in El Dorado, Kan.
The case has been delayed because the global coronavirus pandemic has interfered with “discovery production” of information pertinent to the complex case, the presiding judge wrote.
Also, a substitute attorney for Knighten was appointed Tuesday after his initial lawyer withdrew because of a conflict of interest.