Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

May 13, 2011

Seven snared in drug probe

TAHLEQUAH — Local, state and federal authorities made seven arrests Thursday in a major drug-trafficking investigation.

Officials said the arrests are part of an organization responsible for distributing 6 pounds of methamphetamine a single month to customers in Indian Country.

Among those jailed are Stilwell residents Patrick Springwater, 23; Amber Wolfe, also known as Amber Springwater, 27; Christopher Sanders, 26; Johnny Grimmett, 38; and Jack Frogg, 33. Also arrested were Damien Cookson, 29, and Carrie Caforia, 32, both of Tahlequah.  U.S. Attorney Mark Green said each of the seven defendants is charged in a criminal complaint with a felony of conspiracy to distribute controlled drugs and possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute.

If convicted as charged, each defendant faces a term of not less than 10 years and up to life in prison; fines of up to $4 million; a mandatory term of supervised probation of not less than five years; and a mandatory $100 special assessment.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Indian Affairs initially learned about Springwater from Sallisaw police and the Adair County Sheriff’s Office. Sophisticated law enforcement techniques – including court-ordered wiretaps – and the use of Drug Enforcement Agency and Bureau of Indian Affairs agents, made it a priority to investigate and dismantle the drug-trafficking organization.

Teams served federal search warrants at two Adair County locations Thursday morning.

Search warrants and criminal complaints were issued by U.S. Magistrate Steven P. Shreder, and arrest warrants were issued May 10.

“The belief held by some that the illegal drug trade will go undetected in rural eastern Oklahoma is simply untrue,” Green said.

“Through the cooperative efforts of law enforcement, including local police, tribal law enforcement agencies and federal agencies, organizations such as this will be targeted and prosecuted.”

Jeffery Stamm, DEA acting special agent in charge of the Dallas division, said that agency is relentless in its pursuit of drug-trafficking networks that prey on young people and ruin neighborhoods and communities.

He said the organization targeted Thursday kept the flow of methamphetamine steady into rural Cherokee tribal areas.

“The DEA and its partners have long been dedicated to pursuing and weeding out these drug-trafficking organizations by applying continuous pressure,” Stamm said.

“We will continue to work with tribal governments to improve the safety of their citizens and increase knowledge of the dangers of methamphetamine use.”

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith expressed his appreciation for the U.S. attorney’s office in prosecuting crimes throughout northeast Oklahoma including Indian Country.

“The Cherokee Nation marshals are proud to be part of a team that worked cooperatively with federal law enforcement agencies to stop criminal activity in northeast Oklahoma,” he said.

“Working together, a cooperative peacekeeping effort that enlists our combined resources will make this part of Oklahoma a better and safer place to live.”

Tahlequah Police Chief Clay Mahaney said the arrests were welcome news, and he is glad his agency was a part of the operation.

“Drugs ruin a lot of lives and destroy families,” he said. “We need to keep the pressure on them.”

Sheriff Norman Fisher was also pleased to hear of the arrests Thursday.

“We’ve been able to accomplish so much because the agencies work together really well,” he said.

“This is a major victory in the war on drugs in this area.”

Additional law enforcement agencies assisting in the probe were the District 27 Drug Task Force, Tahlequah Police Department, Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, Adair County Sheriff’s Office and the Sallisaw Police Department, Green said.

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