FBI: Inmates and guards part of massive drug dealing ring in Indiana prisons
ELKHART, Ind. - An early morning raid by 300 FBI agents across the state of Indiana revealed what is being called a massive drug dealing conspiracy that operated largely within the Indiana State Department of Corrections and included members in the Elkhart area.
On Wednesday morning FBI agents rounded up nearly 40 suspects across Indiana and took them to the Federal Courthouse in Indianapolis. Later in the day an indictment was released detailing a huge, multi-state drug dealing operation that was aided, in part, by guards at Indiana prisons. The FBI investigation began in 2011.
According to the FBI, two inmates used cell phones that had been smuggled into prisons to coordinate delivery of meth from California that would then be distributed within the prisons. One of the ringleaders, Oscar Perez, was convicted of murder and attempted murder in Elkhart County and was serving time in Westville.
"Man. We got a good price on 'ice'...this is not mother (expletive) powder,” Perez is said to have told an undercover agent in June 2011. “This is (expletive) glass."
The drug ring boldly used the United States Postal Service and UPS to ship drugs from California to Indiana, with part of the distribution operating out of Elkhart. Prison guards allegedly assisted in smuggling cell phones and drugs into the prisons to be sold to inmates.
Guillermo Belmares, arrested in July 2012 after police say he shot an investigator from the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office, is one of those accused of being a part of the drug ring. Court documents detail numerous trips to Elkhart by members of the ring to pick up large amounts of meth to take to Indianapolis and Southern Indiana.
In addition to meth, PCP and LSD the ring also brought in large amounts of heroin from the Chicago area by simply driving it to Indiana on I-96 and I-94. In July, members of the group became suspicious that law enforcement was following them and actually dumped $6,000 dollars out of a car on I-65, returning later to retrieve it.
The drug ring is said to have made thousands of dollars off of the sale of drugs in prisons and on the street.
"I’m pushing about two (pounds of meth a week)," Oscar Perez is believed to have said in April 2012. “Couldn't produce enough."
Four alleged members of the drug ring are still on the run from the FBI; their names are Audra Echman, Jermaine Coleman, John Smith and Kyle Whitlow.