Fort Smith, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas,announced that on April 14, 2021, the final of six (6) individuals were sentenced by the United States District Court for their roles in a methamphetamine trafficking ring which operated in Benton County, Arkansas and other jurisdictions such as California and Missouri. This investigation and prosecution, named “Operation Inner Circle,” lasted from approximately January of 2019 through today’s final sentencing hearing. The Honorable Judge Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearings in the United States District Court in Fayetteville.
According to court records, in early 2019, Homeland Security Investigations Fayetteville initiated an investigation which revealed that a methamphetamine distributor in Los Angeles, Zeache Dupree Rose, would supply methamphetamine to local sellers of methamphetamine Michael James Smith, Craig Ryan Kelley and Joseph A. James, who would sell it in smaller amounts locally in Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri. In order to facilitate the transportation of the methamphetamine from California to Arkansas, Rose would utilize couriers DaJohn Alexander and Marcus A. Jones, who would transport the methamphetamine in luggage smuggled on to commercial aircraft or buses traveling from California to Arkansas. In total, more than 13 kilograms of pure methamphetamine was seized as part of this operation.
Defendants in this conspiracy received the following sentences:
Zeache Dupree Rose, age 25, the leader of the organization from Los Angeles, California was sentenced December 18, 2020 to 180 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and one count of money laundering. Rose was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas on March 4, 2020 and plead guilty on July 1, 2020.
Michael James Smith, age 43, a distributor of methamphetamine from Anderson, Missouri was sentenced October 7, 2020 to 151 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release on one count of Possession With Intent to Distribute More Than Fifty (50) Grams of Methamphetamine. Smith was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas on November 20, 2019 and plead guilty on December 9, 2019.
Joseph A. James, age 39, a distributor of methamphetamine from Siloam Springs, Arkansas was sentenced December 8, 2020 to 121 months in federal prison followed by four years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute More Than Five-Hundred (500) Grams of a Mixture or Substance Containing Methamphetamine. James was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas on August 16, 2019 and plead guilty on October 3, 2019.
Craig Ryan Kelley, age 45, a distributor of methamphetamine from Eureka Springs, Arkansas was sentenced August 12, 2020 to 240 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release on one count of Distribution of More Than Five (5) Grams of Methamphetamine. Kelley was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas on March 4, 2020 and plead guilty on May 1, 2020.
DaJohn Lequor Alexander, age 21, a transporter of methamphetamine from Los Angeles, California, was sentenced November 4, 2020 to 97 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Alexander was charged by Information and entered a plea of guilty on July 2, 2020.
Marcus Alan Jones, age 27, a transporter of methamphetamine from Los Angeles, California, was sentenced April 14, 2021 to 120 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Jones was charged by Information and entered a plea of guilty on December 2, 2020.
This prosecution was part of the Western District of Arkansas’ Operation Inner Circle, which is part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. The OCDETF program is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s drug supply reduction strategy. OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illicit drug supply.
This OCDETF case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations in Fayetteville, Arkansas and Los Angeles, California, The Internal Revenue Service in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Benton County, Arkansas Sheriff’s Office, the Rogers, Arkansas Police Department, the Bentonville, Arkansas Police Department and the Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Brandon Carter prosecuted the case for the Western District of Arkansas.
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