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Parties in Arkansas meth ring sent to prison; sentences given to all 17 people

by Dave Hughes | November 11, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

FORT SMITH -- Seventeen people constituting a methamphetamine ring broken up last year in the Harrison area have been sentenced to federal prison over the past two weeks.

Western Arkansas Chief U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III sentenced the leader of the ring, Juan Delacruz Albarran, 36, of Springdale, to 27 years in prison Thursday. Albarran pleaded guilty in March to one count each of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and money laundering.

In addition to the prison time, according to court records, Albarran agreed to forfeit 2.39 acres he owned on Zion Street in Lowell, $4,351, eight Invicta wristwatches, a Kubota lawn mower, a 2010 Ford F-150 pickup, a 2008 and a 2010 Honda Odyssey, a 1997 Lincoln and a 2010 Nissan Maxima.

Patricia Lewis-Zubkin, 63, of St. Joe in Searcy County was Albarran's main distributor in the ring. Holmes sentenced her Oct. 31 to 20 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Court records show that the government sought to increase Lewis-Zubkin's potential sentence, saying that she made a credible threat to use or direct violence.

The government's sentencing recommendation to Holmes said in May 2016 that Lewis-Zubkin told one of her co-defendants, Phillip Eugene Greenhaw, 44, of Harrison, that she wanted two others who sold drugs for her to be hurt because they hadn't paid for drugs she had given them to sell.

One of the men, she told Greenhaw "'needed the life beat out of him.'" The other '"needed his ass kicked,'" according to the sentencing recommendation. Lewis-Zubkin told Greenhaw that she would pay someone $100 to beat the two men, and Greenhaw suggested a friend of his who was willing to beat them up.

A week later, the government document said, Greenhaw called Lewis-Zubkin and told her the "'$100 man has not come through.'"

"Lewis-Zubkin responded that she had found someone else to assault [the two men] and she wanted Greenhaw to return her $100. On June 16, 2016, Lewis-Zubkin texted Greenhaw that he should not have paid his friend the money until after he did what he promised," according to the government's sentencing recommendation.

Holmes also sentenced Lewis-Zubkin's son, Jason Lee Lewis, 43, of St. Joe, to 151 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

The investigation of the drug ring -- involving federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and the Arkansas National Guard -- began around April 2016, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

It involved the use of confidential sources who made undercover methamphetamine purchases from various members of the drug ring. Investigators also used surveillance, and the FBI received authorization from judges to tap into telephone conversations and electronic messaging to follow suspects and their activities.

The ring dealt in multiple pounds of methamphetamine supplied by Albarran who used a courier, Juan Ramirez-Vargas, 23, of Springdale, to haul in the drugs hidden in secret compartments in the vehicles he drove, court records show.

Others also hauled in drugs. Lewis-Zubkin's plea agreement with the government said that in February 2016, Jason Lewis was stopped in Mayes County, Okla., by a Grand River Dam Authority official. A search of the vehicle turned up 6.3 pounds of methamphetamine. Lewis told authorities he was taking the drugs to his mother in the Harrison area.

The plea agreement said Lewis-Zubkin once drove to Tulsa where she bought 3 pounds of methamphetamine for $24,000.

In August 2016, investigators listened in on a phone conversation Albarran had with a person unidentified in court records in which they discussed the low supply of methamphetamine available because of flooding in Dallas.

When Albarran arranged for drugs to be brought to Arkansas, he or someone working for him delivered them to Lewis-Zubkin, who distributed the drugs in large quantities to others in the ring. They sold the drugs to their customers and turned the money over to Lewis-Zubkin, who paid Albarran for the drugs he hauled in.

In May 2016, according to Albarran's plea agreement with the government, Albarran complained to Lewis-Zubkin when he collected $9,030 from her, took it to the bank to deposit and was told by a bank official that $345 was counterfeit bills.

Around the same time, the plea agreement said, Albarran took the $8,685 in good currency he collected from Lewis-Zubkin, combined it with $13,315 from a savings account he had at the bank and purchased a cashier's check for $22,000.

He told Lewis-Zubkin later, according to the plea agreement, that he took the money to the bank "so he can send it to 'the people he is supposed to pay, through banks sometimes so money can go clean.'"

A news release from the U.S. attorney's office said some of the co-defendants in the case pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The others pleaded guilty to two counts of using a communication facility to distribute methamphetamine.

Those sentenced for conspiracy and their sentences were:

Megan Diane Hersh, 30, of Diamond City, 46 months; Ramirez-Vargas, 57 months; Lorene Nicole Latham-Phillips, 30, of Harrison, 60 months; James Wesley "Wes" Phillips, 26, of Harrison, 87 months; Greenhaw, 96 months; James Montgomery Suggs, 47, of Harrison, 48 months; Jackie Bruce Veach, 61, of Harrison, 48 months; and Sarah Jane Veach, 61, of Harrison, 48 months.

Those sentenced for using a communication facility and their sentences were:

Carl Charlton, 61, of Harrison, 48 months; Dammon Charlton, 35, of Harrison, 63 months; Jessie Paul Farmer, 29, of Harrison, 96 months; Mendy Lynn Barron, 41, of Alpena, 74 months; Paul Gerald Stewart, 41, of Marshall, 70 months; and Edward "Eddie" Hugh Wade Jr., 54, of Yellville, 96 months.


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State Desk on 11/11/2017

Print Headline: Parties in meth ring sent to prison; Sentences given to all 17 people


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