Department of Justice

Six West Plains residents and one Mtn. View resident have been indicted on federal drug charges, the conclusion of an investigation into drug trafficking believed to have taken place between Dec. 31, 2015, and June 21 of this year, according to information provided by Tim Garrison and Don Ledford of the U.S. District Court, Western District Southern Division out of Springfield.

Some of the arrests were made by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Howell County Sheriff’s Department, and all arrests were made Thursday.

Shirley Jo Hicks, 62, was arrested at 9:50 a.m. at her home on K Highway; Raymon Flores Ortega, 63, was arrested at 10:43 a.m. at his home on County Road 2010, and Shaun Michael Ross, 39, was arrested at 11:17 a.m. at his home on Olden Street.

James E. Cooper, 52, Mtn. View, was arrested at 11:30 a.m. in West Plains and Benny Dean Griffin, 57, Aid Avenue, was arrested at 6:25 p.m. on Broadway.

Jose I. Gonzales, 37, and Jordan W. Gutierrez, 25, both also of West Plains, and Fontella J Noose, 38, Springfield, and Luis Ortiz Rodriguez, 36, no known address, also were included in the grand jury indictment.

All are charged with one count each of distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, plus additional charges, with a range of possible punishment from five years in prison and a $250,000 fine to a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine.  

SHIRLEY HICKS

Hicks is additionally charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and the court is asking for forfeiture of $20,393 in currency suspected to be proceeds of drug trafficking.   

She was reportedly found in possession of eight firearms.  

Hicks was awaiting trial on 2018 charges of second-degree drug trafficking, five counts of unlawful use of a weapon by possessing a weapon and a felony controlled substance and keeping or maintaining a public nuisance.

She was arrested July 25, 2018, after more than 12 pounds of suspected methamphetamine, firearms and $20,000 in cash were found during a search warrant executed by officers with the South Central Drug Task Force.

The charge of keeping and maintaining a public nuisance stems from the allegation that Hicks, by distributing methamphetamine, disregarded the safety of the general public and her grandchildren, who live within 30 yards of her home and were frequent visitors.

She had been free on $100,000 bail since December 2018, court records show.

In an interview with law enforcement, Hicks allegedly admitted she had distributed multiple pounds of methamphetamine in and around Howell County for more than a year.

RAYMON ORTEGA

Ortega is also charged with possession with intention to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and two counts of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person for five pistols and three rifles. The court is asking for the forfeiture of $10,924 in cash suspected to be proceeds of drug trafficking.   

He was arrested May 7, 2018, at his home after law enforcement with the South Central Drug Task Force reportedly found about a pound of methamphetamine, marijuana, $10,000 in cash, three firearms, one of which was confirmed as being reported stolen in Howell County, an excess of 125 various prescription narcotics, packaging materials and drug paraphernalia.

BENNY GRIFFIN

Griffin is additionally charged with possession with intention to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. The court is asking for the forfeiture of $16,078 in cash believed to be proceeds of drug trafficking.  

Griffin was arrested Nov. 26, 2018, on charges of first-degree drug trafficking, keeping or maintaining a public nuisance and unlawful use of a weapon.

Officials reported a bag of white crystalline substance was found on Griffin and a waterproof container containing 16 bags of a white crystalline substance weighing about two pounds total and an ammunition container with drug paraphernalia, marijuana, digital scales and packaging materials was found in the woods about 100 yards behind Griffin’s home. One of the bags was reportedly tested and showed the presence of methamphetamine.  

Another container with digital scales and a scoop with a white crystal residue was found about 50 yards from the house near a burn pile.    

JOSE I. GONZALES

Gonzales was additionally charged with possession with intention to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.

He was arrested March 27 and charged with possession of a controlled substance, two counts each of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child involving drugs and one count of unlawful use of a weapon, possessing a weapon and a controlled substance.

Court records show during a search warrant of Gonzales’ home executed March 20 by members of the South Central Drug Task Force and the Howell County Sheriff’s Department, the officers discovered a methamphetamine pipe loaded with methamphetamine in a chair where it could be reached by the 6-year-old and 4-year-old children in the home.

Reportedly more methamphetamine, prescription narcotics (hydrocodone) not in a proper container, marijuana and a firearm were also in the home. Methamphetamine was allegedly loose on a mirror in the bathroom.

Court records show illegal narcotics were recovered in the home during a search warrant served in December, and the children were present in the home at that time as well.

JAMES COOPER

Cooper was also charged with possession with intention to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.

He was arrested Dec. 5, 2018, in Mtn. View on a charge of delivery of a controlled substance after traffic stop allegedly revealed a large quantity of methamphetamine in the vehicle he was driving.

Cooper reportedly told Officer Michael Pauly of the Mtn. View police department “There might be some in the car and it’s a lot,” as Cooper’s vehicle was being searched by a K9 officer.   

A black bag found on the passenger side seat reportedly contained six large bags of a crystalline substance that field-tested positive for methamphetamine. A larger bag contained torch style lighters, a cut straw, spoons, dozens of smaller bags, a scale with crystalline residue on it and a metal container with marijuana residue inside, Pauly said.

The combined weight of the methamphetamine was about 42 grams, the officer added.

JORDAN W. GUTIERREZ

Gutierrez was additionally charged with possession with intention to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine and Ross is additionally charged with possession with intention to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.

SHAUN ROSS

Ross was arrested Oct. 26 on charges of delivery of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance after allegedly being found with about 35 grams of methamphetamine, pills and drug packaging materials and paraphernalia.

The arrest was made by Deputy Seth Smith of the Howell County Sheriff’s Department.

After smelling the odor of marijuana, Smith conducted a probable cause search. During the search, Smith found about 35 grams of a white crystalline substance that field-tested positive for methamphetamine packaged in four separate bags, a clear bag containing 25 Alprazolam pills, multiple clear bags, a set of digital scales, marijuana and two glass smoking devices.

NOOSE, RODRIGUEZ

Noose, has also been charged with one count of distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Rodriguez has been additionally charged with possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.  

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica R. Keller.

It was investigated by the South Central Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Howell County Sheriff’s Department, the West Plains Police Department, and the Mtn. View Police Department.

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