Operation Meltdown

Investigation Into Methamphetamine Trafficking Nets 16 Arrests

Joseph Karaszewski of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is pictured along with members of several local, state and federal agencies to discuss “Operation Meltdown,” a large-scale drug trafficking ring that brought methamphetamine from Mexico to California and eventually Western New York. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

A large-scale drug conspiracy that brought methamphetamine originating from Mexico into Jamestown for distribution over the last several years was exposed in numerous sweeping area raids.

During a press conference Tuesday at City Hall in Jamestown, Joseph Karaszewski, criminal chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, announced federal indictments for many of the people involved in the trafficking of methamphetamine in the area. The conspiracy dates as far back as 2013, though current charges stem from an investigation of drug trafficking from November 2017 to last week.

A federal grand jury indicted eight people tied to the conspiracy in what local, state and federal agencies dubbed “Operation Meltdown.” Included in the federal indictment announced Tuesday are: Danny W. Michael III, 44; Alexis V. Hall, 23; Andrew C. Bennett, 29; Searcy E. Fields, 49; Jacob A. Motherwell, 29; Michael A. Davis, 33; and Stacie N. Yancer, 38, all of Jamestown, and 29-year-old Randolph resident Destiny J. Hare. They are being held on charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine.

Yancer, Davis and Michael already were in police custody when the new charges were announced.

In addition, Karaszewski said 27-year-old Jamell Trapp and Marcus Bowman, no age given, were arrested and charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, as well as possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Federal prosecutors said Trapp, a Fredonia resident, was a member of a “multi-state drug trafficking organization” suspected of trafficking large quantities of methamphetamine.

Members of several local, state and federal agencies discuss "Operation Melt Down," a large-scale drug trafficking ring that brought methamphetamine from Mexico to California and eventually Western New York. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

Police believe the methamphetamine was manufactured in Mexico and shipped to California. From there, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the drugs were packaged and shipped via the U.S. Postal Service to Jamestown for distribution.

Some of those tied to Operation Meltdown were taken into custody Monday in the Jamestown area. Members of the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and United States Postal Inspection Service conducted a controlled delivery of a parcel to Trapp’s residence at 18 Wisteria Drive in Fredonia. The original package containing methamphetamine was intercepted by the Postal Inspection Service on June 15 and replaced with fake product.

Bowman reportedly accepted the package, and both he and Trapp were later taken into custody, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Among those who spoke Tuesday was Gary Loeffert, special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Buffalo Office.

“The men and women arrested today were pushing this unforgiving drug into the Jamestown community knowing it will inevitably destroy the lives of users and their family and friends,” Loeffert said.

Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings. P-J file photo by Eric Tichy

Taken into custody Tuesday in numerous raids were Hall, Hare, Bennett, Fields and Motherwell. During a search of their homes, police recovered 1 pound of suspected crystal methamphetamine, pills, drug paraphernalia, 20 cellphones, a laptop and about $3,000 in cash.

Six local residents also were taken into custody on charges of conspiracy to distribute of methamphetamine through state search warrants. They are Evan Motherwell, 22; Tina L. Motherwell, 50; Joey A. Weise, 37; Christina L. Dean, 45; Jarried M. Dean, 25; and Richard S. Dean, 42.

Karaszewski said the six were involved in the “distribution of methamphetamine” in the Jamestown area.

Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings said his department reached out to federal agencies during its investigation into the trafficking of methamphetamine.

“This is a great example of the collaborative effort in the results that we can achieve,” said Snellings, also praising the work of the Jamestown Metro Drug Task Force.

The overall investigation involved the execution of federal and state search warrants at homes in Jamestown, Fredonia and Randolph. Karaszewski said more than 7 pounds of methamphetamine was seized by local agencies in the operation worth about $300,000.

“While much attention — and rightfully so — is given to the opioid epidemic, methamphetamine remains a formidable and increasing threat in various locations across the United States,” U.S. Attorney James Kennedy Jr. said in a statement announcing the federal indictments. “Today’s round-up provides proof that the entire Department of Justice, working together with our state and local partners, will do all that we can to eradicate the deadly and varied threat presented by illicit drugs.”

Meanwhile, Karaszewski noted that in 2016, more than 7,500 people in the country died as the result of a methamphetamine overdose.

“It remains a serious problem in our country and in our community,” he said.

The federal case is being handled by Patricia Astorga and Emmanuel Ulubiyo, assistant U.S. attorneys.