(STL.News) – United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced today that Michael O’Bannon, 35, Michael Jones, 37, Jason Reed, 50, and Shaun Myers, 37, all from Kokomo, Indiana, were convicted on drug trafficking, firearms charges and money laundering, following a three-week jury trial, in the federal court in Indianapolis, before U.S. District Judge James R. Sweeney II.
Defendant Michael O’Bannon was also convicted of conspiring to commit a murder for hire, as charged in the indictment. The drug trafficking organization believed that the intended victim posed a risk to the organization as a suspected informant.
“Kokomo is a much safer community today following the rendering of a guilty verdict in this jury trial,” said Minkler. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to dismantle drug trafficking organizations responsible for bringing methamphetamine, fentanyl, and other dangerous drugs into our communities and we will hold those individuals involved accountable.”
Reggie Balentine was the leader of the distribution conspiracy, with Pierre Riley being his source of supply operating from Macon, Georgia, and bringing controlled substances into Kokomo. Balentine worked with Perry Jones and others to distribute controlled substances, while Kristin Kinney stored the controlled substances and helped count the proceeds. Balentine sold the controlled substances to Michael Jones, Jason Reed, Deshoun Everhart, Michael O’Bannon and Derrick Owens for redistribution.
Over 17 pounds of methamphetamine, over two pounds of cocaine, two ounces of heroin, 122 grams of fentanyl, six ounces of marijuana, two money counters, 12 vehicles, $37,000 and 24 firearms were confiscated during the execution of several search warrants, served at 13 difference locations in Kokomo and in the Macon, Georgia area on May 1, 2018.
The following defendants previously pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges and are awaiting sentencing:
Pierre Riley, 51, Macon, Ga.
Reggie Balentine, 42, Kokomo, Ind.
Kristin Kinney, 40, Kokomo, Ind.
Deshoun Everhart, 41, Warsaw, Ind.
Perry Jones, 44, Kokomo, Ind.
Melissa Baird, 40, Kokomo, Ind.
Bradley Clark, 36, Kokomo, IN
Derrick Owens, 38, Terre Haute, Ind.
Thomas Jones, 24, Kokomo, Ind.
Patricia Acord, 60, Kokomo, Ind., pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced in a related case on December 13, 2018 to 46 months’ imprisonment followed by two years of supervised release.
Diondre Jones, 26, Indianapolis, Indiana, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and being a felon in possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking activity. Jones was sentenced by separate proceeding on January 10, 2019 to 117 months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.
Antwon Abbott, 40, Kokomo, Ind., charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine is set for a November 25, 2019 bench trial.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Kokomo Police Department, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, Howard County Prosecutor’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, United States Marshal Service, Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department, Vigo County Drug Task Force, Indiana State Police, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Miami County Prosecutor’s Office, Terre Haute Police Department, Warsaw Police Department, Indiana National Guard Counter Drug, and the Howard County Sheriff’s Department.
“The guilty verdict for members of the Reggie Balentine, drug trafficking organization was justice for the fine citizens of Kokomo,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael Gannon. “This organization was one of the most violent drug trafficking organizations ever to operate in Kokomo. They used violence, fear and intimidation as a platform to feed their illegal activities. The dismantlement of this organization allows the citizens of Kokomo to sleep better and puts all drug dealers on notice that DEA and their state, local and federal counterparts will utilize all resources available to hold violent offenders accountable. DEA thanks the Kokomo Police Department and the United States Attorney’s Office for their outstanding work.”
“On behalf of the Kokomo Police Department, we would like to thank our partners at the Drug Enforcement Administration, AUSA Michelle Brady, and all of the law enforcement agencies who participated in the investigation of Operation Law and Order,” said Captain Tonda Cockrell of the Kokomo Police Department. “This extensive investigation was invaluable to disrupting the Domestic Drug Trafficking Organization of Reggie Balentine, and his associates, here in Kokomo, Indiana.”
“These guilty verdicts demonstrate IRS Criminal Investigation’s commitment to working with the United States Attorney’s Office and our partner agencies to dismantle drug trafficking organizations”, said Kathy A. Enstrom, IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge, Chicago Field Office. “IRS-CI is proud to contribute our financial expertise to this investigation which has had a direct impact on the safety of the Kokomo community.”
“The successful outcome of this investigation highlights the diligent efforts of Postal Inspectors and their various law enforcement partners as the U.S. Postal Inspection Service continues to pursue traffickers of all narcotics,” said Ed Gallashaw, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Detroit Division. “The Inspection Service’s goal is to inhibit the spread of illegal substances and protect postal employees and customers from violence related to drug trafficking. The excellent teamwork demonstrated throughout the investigation to identify and dismantle this particular drug trafficking organization has brought us closer to that goal and consequently made Kokomo a safer place to live, work, and play. ”
“The Kokomo community deserves to be able to go about their lives without fear of violence,” said Jonathan McPherson, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Columbus Field Division. “ATF will continue to work with our partners at all levels of government to work together to make Kokomo safer for all of us.”
According to Assistant United States Attorneys Michelle P. Brady and Jeremy A. Morris, who prosecuted this case for the government, Michael O’Bannon, Michael Jones, Jason Reed and Shaun Myers all face up to life imprisonment followed by five years’ supervised release.
In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the office’s firm commitment to partner with federal and local law enforcement agencies to prosecute individuals bringing fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin into our communities. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan Section 3.3.