Archive for November, 2009

4,500 pills found during traffic stop

*published Nov. 20, 2009

Bags and pills recovered from Thursday’s traffic stop. BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

A traffic stop on Interstate 10 on Thursday led to the discovery of about 4,500 prescription pills, authorities said.

Cpl. William Kettler, a drug task force member, reportedly stopped Chasady L. Hargrave, 24, of Houma, at about 2 p.m. on I-10 East near Enterprise Boulevard.

A search of the car, done with Hargrave’s consent, turned up 25 paper bags, each containing four bottles of pills, authorities said. The drugs — including 3,000 hydrocone pills and 1,500 alprazolam, or Xanax, pills — are worth about $30,000, officials said.

Lt. Billy Chapman said officers aren’t sure what the other two types of pills were. None of the bottles had labels, authorities said.

The most common way for people to get large quantities of prescription drugs is to “doctor shop” and take the same prescription to multiple pain management clinics, acquiring a month’s worth of pills at each place.

“This is new, so our officers are still trying to figure out where these came from,” Chapman said.

Hargrave was charged with possession of Schedules III and IV drugs with intent to distribute.


November 20, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Police standoff

*published Nov. 17, 2009

A negotiator with the Lake Charles Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team speaks with an unidentified man involved in the standoff at his residence on the 800 block of 18th Street. BY KAREN E. WINK

Monday’s incident has peaceful conclusion
A two-hour standoff involving a man barricaded in a Lake Charles residence ended peacefully Monday morning.

Lake Charles police were called to a home in the 800 block of 18th Street at around 9:30 a.m. in regard to a man with two knives, said Sgt. Mark Kraus.

He said an officer had gone to the home to serve the man with an order of protective custody, at which point the man barricaded himself in the house.

“We determined that the man was having some emotional distress, so we called in members of the crisis intervention team,” Kraus said.

During the two hours, officers were seen speaking to the man through a window. He also came outside three times, but during those times officers could not apprehend him.

On different occasions, two family members accompanied officers to the house in attempts to convince the man to surrender.

SWAT officers eventually entered the house and took the man into custody. Kraus said the man is at a local hospital receiving a psychiatric evaluation.

“It’s unlikely that we will press any criminal charges,” Kraus said.


November 17, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Two men convicted on drug-trafficking charges

*published Nov. 14, 2009

After 8 1/2 hours of deliberation over two days, a federal jury found two men guilty of four drug-trafficking charges on Friday.

Roberto Zamora was found guilty of conspiracy to possess cocaine and other drugs for later distribution and of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

Fletcher Freeman Jr. was found guilty of conspiracy to possess cocaine and other drugs and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

The jury of five men and seven women deliberated 3:30-10:15 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m.-10:45 a.m. Friday before returning unanimous verdicts.

The case stems from traffic stops that resulted in drug seizures in Calcasieu and Jeff Davis parishes in 2002 and 2003. The seizures led Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to investigate a drug ring run by Francisco Chapa-Duran, who is reportedly based in Reynosa, Mexico.

Agents reportedly discovered drug-trafficking hubs in Columbus, Ga., Houston, and numerous locations in Florida and North Carolina.

The indictment began with 19 defendants. Officials said 13 pleaded guilty to conspiracy and agreed to cooperate; four remain fugitives in Mexico; and Zamora and Freeman were convicted.

Those who pleaded guilty were among the 39 witnesses called by prosecutors. Others included federal and local law enforcement officers and evidence technicians.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Grayson said at least one fugitive is believed to be dead, but that officials are unsure.

Zamora and Freeman will be sentenced on Feb. 11. They face 10 to 20 years on the conspiracy charge and up to five for the possession charges.


November 14, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Local police break record for seized prescriptions

*Nov. 9, 2009
Task force director: Cooperation between states, laws necessary

Local law enforcers seized more than 3,100 prescription pills last week, pushing them past their 2008 record of 7,244 illegal pills confiscated, according to Combined Anti-Drug Task Force statistics.

Director Lt. Billy Chapman says he thinks good law enforcement has contributed to those numbers, but there are other factors that are more important.

In 2007, 56 people overdosed on prescription drugs in Calcasieu Parish. In 2008, there were 33 overdoses. So far this year, there have been 23.

“It’s a gradual decrease as we get everything working together,” Chapman said.

“Everything” isn’t just in Louisiana. Chapman said about 95 percent of all illegal drugs in Southwest Louisi–ana are coming from southeast Texas.

“We have local and federal officers we speak to every week in Houston and Orange and Beaumont,” Chapman said. “But they (in Texas) don’t have the laws in place yet to make arrests.”

The laws he is referring to would be similar to doctor shopping, drug-monitoring and labeling statutes in Louisiana that have been passed in the past three or four years.

A doctor-shopping bill would make it a felony to have a prescription filled at multiple clinics or pharmacies within a certain amount of time.

The Louisiana prescription drug-monitoring law gave the go-ahead to set up a database — accessible only by doctors, pharmacists and law enforcers — that shows how much of a scheduled drug was prescribed to a person in the state.

The most-recent law passed in Louisiana was to change Soma from a legend drug to a schedule IV drug. As a legend drug, doctors and pharmacists did not have to report how much of the drug they were prescribing and dispensing.

“This was a big step, because Soma is part of that trilogy of pills — along with hydrocodone and Xanax — people are getting when they doctor shop.

These laws have made it difficult to get large quantities of prescription pills in Louisiana, but a large supply is available across the border in Texas.

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier had been working with Texas legislators to push through tougher regulations of prescription pills.

In this latest session, Texas passed a law that required all pain management clinics to be owned by a physician registered with the state board of health.

“Before, anybody could own a clinic and hire a doctor to run it,” Chapman said. “So what we were finding is the doctor was only there a few days a week and doctor’s assistants and nurses were writing the majority of the prescriptions.”

Texas’ Legislature meets every two years, instead of every year.

“People always need to understand that this takes time,” Chapman said. “When we got the prescription monitoring law passed, it took another year for us to get the database set up, and there is always something we can fix.”

A doctor-shopping bill will be presented in the next Texas Legislature.

“After that we’ll be rocking and rolling,” Chapman said. “The goal is always to stop it from even getting out there.”


November 9, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Deputy arrested on sex charges

*published Nov. 4, 2009

A Calcasieu Parish deputy was fired Tuesday night after his arrest on rape and other sex charges, authorities said.

A woman reportedly contacted the Calcasieu Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 30 and said her juvenile daughter was having sex with David N. Thomas, 40, of 927 Cascio Road in Moss Bluff.

Sheriff Tony Mancuso requested assistance from state police, citing a conflict of interest, according to a statement released by the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s officials are conducting an independent internal investigation, and Trooper Stephen LaFargue said state police will handle the criminal investigation.

Among the charges Thomas faces are sexual battery and forcible rape.

Information on his career with the Sheriff’s Office — reportedly 19 years — was not available late Tuesday.


November 4, 2009 at 10:23 am

Police believe meth lab cause of hotel fire

*published Nov. 4, 2009

Drug task force officers are investigating a fire at the Isle of Capri Casino hotel that they believe was caused by someone operating a methamphetamine lab.

“We think someone was operating the meth lab and a fire started and the suspects just ran off, endangering the lives of everyone on that floor,” said Westlake Police Chief Jeremy Cryer.

He said that at about 6 p.m. Monday, Westlake firefighters responded to a call on the sixth floor of the hotel, where “they found chemicals that they determined were used in a mobile meth lab.”

Cryer said a state hazardous-materials crew was brought in and that the case has been handed to the Combined Anti-Drug Task Force.

Detectives are searching for the suspects.


November 4, 2009 at 10:21 am

$68,000 worth of drugs seized

*published Nov. 3, 2009

Three traffic stops on I-10 lead to busts
Three separate traffic stops on Interstate 10 last week led to the seizure of more than $68,000 in prescription pills and illegal drugs — not record confiscations but a “significant pop,” said Lt. Billy Chapman, director of the Combined Anti-Drug Task Force.

At 6 p.m. Oct. 25, officers reportedly stopped Sylvinnia S. Moore, 28, and Samantha J. Lewis, 21, both of Mobile, Ala., on Interstate 10 in Lake Charles and found 120 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of their rented vehicle. They were traveling from Houston to Mobile, officers said.

At 9 p.m. Oct. 28, officers reportedly stopped Jonathan K. Kennerson, 23, of Houston, and Camiece M. Groves, 21, of Huffman, Texas, and found three bags — with 2,016 hydrocodone pills and 504 Xanax pills — hidden in the fender of their car. Kennerson was going to Lafayette, officers said.

At about midnight Oct. 29, officers stopped John H. LeGros, 30, of Roanoke, near Vinton and found 613 Lorcet pills and 46 Somas in his vehicle.

Sheriff Tony Mancuso said the seizures were significant because District Attorney John DeRosier has been working hard to help control prescription drug abuse in the area.

“These are the pills that have been killing our young people in Calcasieu Parish,” DeRosier said.

He said state doctor-shopping laws and prescription pill monitoring systems have made it difficult for people to get such large amounts of drugs in the state.

“We made strides this year with the Texas Legislature passing laws to regulate pain management clinics,” he said. “We still have to get a doctor shopping statute there.”


Mancuso said agencies here are working with the Houston police, Harris Country deputies, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and drug task forces in Lafayette and Mobile.

“It’s been so important to combine our efforts with other local and federal law enforcement,” Mancuso said. “We have major waterways and a major interstate coming through the parish.”

Sgt. Gene Pittman with the local task force said well over 90 percent of the drugs in the area come in through Houston.


November 3, 2009 at 10:13 am