A partnership between federal, state, and local law enforcement has crippled a drug trafficking organization in Owensboro.
Five members of its member are behind bars and charged with multiple felonies after conspiring to distribute 151 pounds of methamphetamine, 3.5 pounds of counterfeit pills with suspected fentanyl, and other drugs.
“The Owensboro Police Department remains committed to getting narcotics and dangerous offenders off the streets of Owensboro," said Owensboro Police Chief Art Ealum in a news release. “This investigation is undoubtedly the most significant narcotics investigation in our department’s history, which speaks to the magnitude of the drug epidemic in the Owensboro Metropolitan Area."
According to the criminal complaints, between Jan. 6- 11 of this year, 30-year-old Willie Watkins of Owensboro arranged the purchase of approximately 150 pounds of suspected methamphetamine with an unidentified male, located in the Los Angeles, California area, and counterfeit pills containing suspected fentanyl from a source in the Phoenix, Arizona area.
Law enforcement conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle being operated by another suspected member of the Watkins drug trafficking organization in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, as the vehicle travelled from Arizona toward Kentucky. A search of the vehicle uncovered the methamphetamine and prescription pills in addition to about 21 pounds of marijuana, nine pounds of THC edibles, 14 pounds of THC related vape products, and approximately one gram of ecstasy.
After learning of the stop, as monitored by law enforcement over Willie Watkins’ telephone, Watkins made several calls to multiple individuals discussing the seizure of the narcotics by law enforcement and the amount of money he had lost as a result.
Although none of the narcotics reached the streets of Owensboro, Russell Coleman, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, said he's confident more are en route.
“All of the drugs we’re seeing throughout western Kentucky are produced in Mexico and we are a market," Coleman told WKU Public Radio following a news conference in Owensboro. "We’re tackling the supply here today, but as long as we have a market for these drugs, as long as we have demand for these drugs, this will be an ongoing battle.”
Additionally, federal and local law enforcement executed multiple search warrants at locations associated with the Watkins drug trafficking organization in Owensboro. As a result, law enforcement seized additional methamphetamine, counterfeit pills containing suspected fentanyl, marijuana, firearms, and over $325,000 in cash.
Additional members of the Watkins drug trafficking organization, including 31-year-old Christopher McNary, 29-year-old Richard Cason, 28-year-old Keith Watkins, and 27-year-old Samuel White, all of Owensboro were also arrested. If convicted, all five men face decades in prison.