A Missouri man was sentenced in federal court for his role in a conspiracy to distribute large amounts of methamphetamine in Howell, Greene, and Texas counties.
Luis Ortiz Rodriguez, 39, of West Plains, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough to 20 years and 10 months in federal prison without parole.
On Sept. 7, 2021, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Howell, Greene, and Texas counties from Dec. 31, 2015, to June 21, 2019. Rodriguez also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.
Rodriguez admitted that he met co-defendant Jose I. Gonzales, 39, of West Plains, after being released from prison in March 2018. Rodriguez and Gonzales agreed to use Rodriguez’s source of supply and Gonzales’s connections in West Plains to distribute methamphetamine. Rodriguez paid $3,000 per pound to purchase methamphetamine in Oklahoma, which he transported to Missouri for distribution.
Rodriguez also admitted that he had almost a pound of methamphetamine on Jan. 4, 2019, but it was dumped shortly before law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on that day. When officers executed the search warrant, Rodriguez had left the house. The kitchen sink was full of ice and the faucet was running hot, which is a known tactic to dispose of drugs.
Officers contacted Rodriguez in the parking lot of the Casey’s General Store in West Plains as the house was being searched. Rodriguez told officers there was an electronic safe in the house, which contained a Taurus .410-caliber revolver loaded with two .45-caliber rounds and three shotgun rounds. Rodriguez provided the combination to open the safe and officers seized the firearm. Officers also seized a baggie that contained 1.64 grams of methamphetamine, one hydrocodone pill, additional ammunition, and drug paraphernalia from the master bedroom.
Law enforcement officers seized more than five kilograms of methamphetamine from co-defendant Shirley J. Hicks, 64, of West Plains, a leader of the conspiracy. When law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Hicks’s residence on July 24, 2018, they found a red toolbox inside a shop/barn that contained six bags with a total of 5.627 kilograms of pure methamphetamine. Inside a bedroom closet in the house, officers also found 12 bags with a total of 243 grams of pure methamphetamine inside a black leather bag, and a blue waterproof box that contained 122.892 grams of pure methamphetamine During the search, officers also found five handguns in the toolbox and five more firearms in the house. Officers also seized a total of $20,393, which Hicks admitted was proceeds from her distribution of methamphetamine. Rodriguez took over as a leader of the conspiracy following Hicks’ arrest.
Rodriguez is the seventh defendant to plead guilty and be sentenced in this case. Hicks was sentenced to 20 years and one month in federal prison without parole. Gonzalez was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison without parole. Fontella J. Noose, 41, of Springfield, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole. Benny D. Griffin, 59, of West Plains, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison without parole. Jordan W. Gutierrez, 27, of West Plains, was sentenced to 12 years and six months in federal prison without parole. Shaun M. Ross, 44, of West Plains, was sentenced to six years in federal prison without parole.
Co-defendants Raymon F. Ortega, 65, of West Plains, and James E. Cooper, 55, of Mountain View, Mo., have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica R. Eatmon. It was investigated by the South Central Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Howell County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the West Plains, Mo., Police Department, and the Mountain View, Mo., Police Department.