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  • Dangerous drug kills 1, sends 3 to hospital

    PCSO logoPCSO logo

    From the Polk County Sheriff's Office

    One person is dead and three more in the hospital after they consumed a dangerous drug earlier last week.

    On Tuesday, Polk County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to a location in the Ace area of Polk County concerning the death of a local individual and two others that were believed to have consumed methamphetamines. Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons suspects that due to the evidence located at the scene along with drug evidence all three individuals consumed the unknown drug laced with an unknown chemical.

    Later that day another individual was discovered in a different subdivision with the same symptoms stating that he also consumed drugs associated with the three individuals from earlier. This person was transported to a local hospital.

    At this time detectives are conducting investigation and awaiting information from the Jefferson County Medical Examiner’s Office as well as hospitals the individuals were transported to for treatment.

    Lyons wants to make the public aware of drugs such as crystal meth and heroin being sold to individuals in Polk County that is suspected of being laced with an unknown chemical or possibly fentanyl. He asked that anyone with information as to the illegal use and sale of narcotics to contact and report to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office or Crime Stoppers at 936-327-STOP (7867).

  • Eight indicted for transnational drug trafficking, money laundering Defendants connected to company located in Onalaska

                                   PCE STAFF The office of Aircraft Guaranty Corporation, located at 2058 FM 356 in Onalaska.

    From Enterprise Staff

    A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Texas has returned an indictment charging eight individuals with various federal violations related to a complex international drug trafficking conspiracy, announced acting United States Department of Justice Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei. This investigation to date has led to indictments of individuals for transnational drug trafficking, money laundering, and financial crimes out of the Eastern District of Texas Federal Court related to a complex international drug trafficking conspiracy.

    Debbie Mercer, 58, and Kayleigh Moffett, 33, both of Oklahoma City; Federico Machado, 53, of Florida; Carlos Villaurrutia, 40, of McAllen, Texas; and four others were named in an indictment charging them with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit export violations, and conspiracy to commit federal registration violations involving aircraft. The indictment details approximately $350 million in alleged criminal activity since 2016. The seven-count superseding indictment was returned by a federal grand jury earlier this week and unsealed recently.

    According to unsealed court documents, the defendants allegedly purchased and illegally registered aircraft under foreign corporations and other individuals for export to other countries. The indictment specifically alleges that Mercer and Moffett, through their company Aircraft Guaranty Corporation (AGC), registered thousands of aircraft in Onalaska, a Polk County town without an airport.

    According to the indictment, several of the illegally registered and exported aircraft were used by transnational criminal organizations in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico to smuggle large quantities of cocaine destined for the United States. The indictment further alleges that illicit proceeds from the subsequent drug sales were then transported as bulk cash from the United States to Mexico and used to buy more aircraft and cocaine. According to the indictment, aircraft purchases were typically completed by wiring funds from casa de cambios and/or banks in Mexico to shell corporations operating in the United States as aircraft sellers/brokers.

    In March 2019, Polk County Constable Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes and South East Texas
    Export Investigation Group (SETEIG) Commander Beau Price received information regarding thousands of aircraft reported to be registered in Onalaska.

    Price discussed this matter with Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement, Bureau of Industry Security Special Agents as well as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and a joint investigation was launched and is ongoing at this time.

    “The threat posed by transnational crime cannot be overstated,” said Ganjei. “The use of United States-registered aircraft by these criminal organizations and their networks of associates poses a clear and present danger to the security of our nation. The American public can expect EDTX to be relentless in its fight against the sometimes invisible, but always dangerous, threat of transnational organized crime.”

    This investigation became an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case and is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (Dallas, Brownsville and Laredo offices); Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (Dallas and Houston offices); Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG); Internal Revenue Service; Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); Polk County Constable’s Office Precinct 1; SETEIG; Harris County District Attorney’s Office; and Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 8. Also assisting in this investigation is Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Byron Lyons and Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden David Johnson, Newton County Office Precinct 4 Constaple Howard Wonders.

    “This investigation is a perfect example of local, state, and federal agencies working together in a task force setting. The amount of time, effort, and resources dedicated to this case by participating agencies is monumental,” said Price.

    “Joint task force models that SETEIG is structured after has proven once again how efficient, effective and successful local, state and federal law enforcement can be investigating and prosecuting complex, sophisticated criminal organizations.” said Hughes.

    Hughes went on to express his appreciation to all agencies involved and to point out it is not uncommon for even the most rural locations to be safe havens for large scale criminal
    organizations.

    The indictment describes that foreign governments seized United States-registered aircraft containing multi-ton shipments of cocaine. According to the indictment, the aircraft were held in trust by AGC for the benefit of foreign corporations or individuals. The indictment identifies Machado, through his company South Aviation, and Villaurrutia, who used his companies TEXTON, TWA International, and Ford Electric, as aircraft sellers/brokers operating in the United States.

    The indictment separately charges Mercer, Moffett, and Machado with engaging in a fraud scheme related to the acquisition of aircraft. According to the indictment, Machado recruited investors to invest in aircraft purchase deposits for sales transactions that never took place. Investors allegedly placed their funds in an escrow account held by Wright Brothers Title Company, which was owned and managed by Mercer and Moffett. Machado then allegedly used these funds for purposes other than the purchase of aircraft.

    The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ernest Gonzalez, Colleen Bloss and Robert Wells. OCDETF is the largest anti-crime task force in the country and its mission is to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States. The prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency task forces leverage the authorities and expertise of federal, state, and local law enforcement.

    “The indictments resulting from this highly complex investigation showcases HSI’s unique and far-reaching authorities, serving as an example of what the global law enforcement community can accomplish when we work together,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, Special Agent in Charge, HSI Dallas. “We were able to deliver a significant blow to the transnational criminal organizations around the world by exposing a money laundering and drug trafficking scheme perpetuated by sophisticated drug cartels.”

    “As this case demonstrates, we will aggressively investigate the illegal exportation of aircraft contrary to U.S. national security interests,” said Trey McClish, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security – Office of Export Enforcement’s Dallas Field Office. “Alongside our Federal and State partners, OEE will leverage its unique criminal and administrative enforcement powers to detect and disrupt serious criminal schemes that violate U.S. export control law.”

    “The indictment in this case demonstrate that individuals who choose to circumvent Federal regulations pertaining to aircraft registration and ownership will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law,” said Todd Damiani, Special Agent-In-Charge, Southern Region, U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG). “The collaborative nature of this investigation is representative of the ongoing investigative work DOT-OIG performs to ensure aviation safety and maintain national security interests in order to prevent the nefarious acts these defendants are being charged with from occurring.”

    If convicted, the defendants face a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison for the drug conspiracy charges and up to 20 years for the money laundering, export and wire fraud violations. It is important to note that a complaint, arrest, or indictment should not be considered as evidence of guilt and that all persons charged with a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Meth dealer receives 20-year sentence

    RobertHolcombMug102920MUGSHOT: Robert L. Holcomb, Jr. Courtesy of the TYLER COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – After a long hiatus from jury trials due to the pandemic, Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin is back in action.

    On Monday, Babin and first assistant DA Pat “Hawk” Hardy successfully brought a conviction for the state in the case of Texas v. Robert Lloyd Holcomb, Jr. District Judge Earl Stover handed Holcomb a sentence of 20 years in state jail on the charge of Possession of Meth with Intent to Deliver.

    “I appreciate Judge Stover for his attentiveness to the evidence and his sense of justice,” Babin said.

    During the trial, Holcomb took the stand and testified that he was only a meth user and not a dealer. He also attempted to explain why he was carrying digital scales, a loaded short-barrel shotgun, $800 in cash and close to an ounce of meth when he was arrested.

    Babin and Hardy’s evidence proved that Holcomb was a dealer, and one witness testified before the jury that he had purchased meth from Holcomb at least 10 times.

    After Holcomb was sentenced, Babin said “The message is that selling meth in Tyler County has consequences.”

    Babin gave thanks to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford and his deputies’ efforts in apprehending Holcomb.

    “Without their efforts, this offender would still be on the streets endangering our law-abiding citizens,” he said.

    Holcomb is one of several convicted methamphetamine traffickers who have been tried in Tyler County and received stiff sentences. Following a full year of jury trials in 2019, Babin and his office have had to take most of this year off from the courtroom due to COVID-19.

    “I’m glad to be back in the courtroom,” he said. “In addition to this case, we resolved several dozen other felonies last week and will be resolving more cases next month.”

    Babin added that last year between the months of March and September there were hundreds of jury trials performed, statewide, but that number has been “barely 20” this year.

    “I’m ready to get our justice system moving again, and I know other DAs across the state feel the same.”

    Holcomb will be confined in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility.

  • PCSO arrests 2 in drug sting

    SANDY LYNNE SWEETMUGSHOT Sandy Lynne Sweet

    From the Polk County Sheriff’s Office

    Two suspects are behind bars after Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives and deputies conducted a drug sting on Sunday.

    PCSO narcotics division detectives and patrol deputies arrived at a residence on Boatdock Street in the scenic loop area to conduct an investigation into the possession of illegal narcotics. Detectives had received numerous tips in reference to the high traffic volumes and the belief of narcotics transactions taking place at the residence.

    RICK EDWARD RULEMUGSHOT Rick Edward Rule

    Detectives have been conducting a lengthy investigation into this residence due to the narcotics tips. While on scene, deputies identified Rick Edward Rule, 56, and Sandy Lynne Sweet, 58, inside the residence.

    During the investigation, probable cause was established for the search of the residence and a search warrant was obtained. A search of the residence revealed several firearms, methamphetamine, a large amount of what is believed to be heroin and fentanyl, as well as items used to ingest and distribute the narcotics.

    It was known to detectives that Rule was a convicted felon still out on parole and due to this fact, Rule was not legally allowed to possess firearms. Rule and Sweet were both charged with manufacture and delivery of methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl, and Rule was additionally charged with tampering with evidence and four charges of unlawful possession of a firearm by felon.

  • Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrests 9 in drug sting (GALLERY)

    LOU ANN HUDSONMUGSHOT LOU ANN HUDSON

    From the Polk County Sheriff’s Office

    Nine people are in custody after a successful drug sting conducted by the Polk County Sheriff ’s Office.

    On March 10, detectives with the PCSO narcotics unit assisted the criminal investigation division with an ongoing investigation re-garding an overdose, in which one person was found to be deceased and three others admitted into hospitals. The drug was believed to be cocaine laced with an un-known chemical.

    During the investigation, it became known to detectives that the cocaine was laced with fentanyl, a very dangerous and deadly drug. The investigation led to information that the drug was possibly obtained from an unknown address off of E. Capps Road in Polk County from a person known as “Mom-ma Lou.”

    Detectives began investigating the E. Capps Road area, making contact with numerous residents to inquire about “Momma Lou” and her whereabouts. Narcotics detectives located Lou Ann Hudson, also known as, “Momma Lou,” just off of E. Capps Road.

    Narcotics Detectives also found many others to be at the residence and on the property, and were identi-fied as Justin Sanders, Sibbie Hoffer, Billy Lafour, Steven Shelby, Stacy Allen, Clinton Moore, Joshua Jones and Desiree Allen. While speak-ing with Momma Lou at the residence probable cause was obtained to apply for a search warrant, which was granted for the residence and property.

    Detectives conducted the search and found all above listed individuals to be in possession of what Narcotics Detectives knew to be Methamphetamine. Ad-ditionally items were found and seized from the resi-dence that are known to be used in the distribution of illegal narcotics.

    Hudson was placed under arrest and charged with Pos-session of Controlled Sub-stance. Sanders, Hoffer, La-four, Shelby, Allen, Moore, Jones and Allen were also all placed under arrest and charged with Possession of Controlled Substance.

    All the above listed de-fendants were taken to the Polk County Sheriff ’s Office Jail and booked in on their charges.

    **PLEASE BE ADVISED**

    The PCSO is seeing a dangerous trend of drug dealers and cartels cutting various drugs with fentanyl which is leading to death and/or serious hospitalizations. The public needs to be aware of the danger of using any controlled substance, as PCSO is seeing an emerging pattern of cases where fentanyl is unexpectedly being added to cocaine/methamphetamine and other drug combinations.

    BILLY LEE LAFOUR
    BILLY LEE LAFOUR
    CLINTON WARREN MOORE
    CLINTON WARREN MOORE
    DESIREE MICHELLE ALLEN
    DESIREE MICHELLE ALLEN
    JOSHUA DATHAN JONES
    JOSHUA DATHAN JONES
    JUSTIN TAYLOR SANDERS
    JUSTIN TAYLOR SANDERS
    LOU ANN HUDSON
    LOU ANN HUDSON
    SIBBIE CAROL HOFFER
    SIBBIE CAROL HOFFER
    STACY MARIE ALLEN
    STACY MARIE ALLEN
    STEVEN ADAM SHELBY
    STEVEN ADAM SHELBY
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