Nine individuals, primarily from West Plains, MO were recently indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Howell, Greene, and Texas counties.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says 61-year old Shirley J. Hicks, 63-year old Raymon F. Ortega, 57-year old Benny D. Griffin, 37-year old Jose I. Gonzales, 25-year old Jordan W. Gutierrez, and 39-year old Shaun M. Ross, all of West Plains, along with 38-year old Fontella J. Noose, of Springfield, MO, 52-year old James E. Cooper, of Mountain View, MO; and 36-year old Luis Ortiz Rodriguez (address unknown), were charged in a 19-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield on August 20. That indictment was unsealed and made public upon the arrests and initial court appearances of Hicks, Ortega, Griffin, Cooper, and Ross.

The federal indictment alleges that each of the nine defendants participated in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Howell, Greene, and Texas counties from December 31, 2015 -  June 21, 2019.

In addition to the criminal conspiracy, Hicks is charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County and one count of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. Hicks allegedly was in possession of a Rohm .22-caliber revolver, a Lorcin .380-caliber pistol, a Hi-Point .40-caliber pistol, an FMJ .45-caliber derringer, a Jimenez Arms .22-caliber pistol, a Marlin .22-caliber rifle, a Browning 16-gauge shotgun, and a Remington .30-06 caliber rifle on July 24, 2018.

Ortega is also charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County, one count of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, and two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms. Ortega, who reportedly has previously been convicted of at least one felony offense, allegedly was in possession of a Jennings (Bryco) .380-caliber pistol, a Ruger 9mm pistol, and a Jennings (Jimenez Arms) 9mm pistol on May 7, 2018. Ortega allegedly was also in possession of a Ruger .22-caliber rifle, two Marlin .22-caliber rifles, and two Browning .22-caliber pistols on June 21, 2019.

Griffin is also charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County, one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Griffin, who has previously been convicted of at least one felony offense, allegedly was in possession of a Ruger .22-caliber pistol on November 26, 2018.

Rodriguez is also charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County, one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Rodriguez, who has previously been convicted of at least one felony offense, allegedly was in possession of a Taurus .410-caliber revolver on January 4, 2019.

Noose is additionally charged with one count of distributing methamphetamine in Greene County and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Noose, who has previously been convicted of at least one felony offense, allegedly was in possession of a Taurus .38-caliber revolver on February 11, 2019.

Gonzalez is also charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County. Gutierrez also is charged with one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Texas County. Ross and Cooper also are each charged with possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in Howell County.

Authorities say the indictment contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require Ortega to forfeit to the government $10,924 that was seized by law enforcement officers; Hicks to forfeit to the government $20,393 that was seized by law enforcement officers; and Griffin to forfeit $16,078 that was seized by law enforcement officers. Ortega, Hicks, and Griffin would also be required to forfeit to the government a money judgment representing the proceeds obtained as a result of their participation in the alleged drug-trafficking conspiracy.