A Missouri man was sentenced in federal court today for his role in leading a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in southwestern Missouri.
Nathen D. Libertus, 31, of Stella, Missouri, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to 21 years in federal prison without parole.
On May 20, 2020, Libertus pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Newton County and Barry County, Mo., from April 30, 2017, to Jan. 20, 2019. According to court documents, Libertus is an affiliate of the Southwest Honkys, a violent prison gang, who has fled from law enforcement officers on several occasions.
A McDonald County, Mo., sheriff’s deputy was passed by a vehicle on West 76 Highway on Nov 10, 2017. The black Cadillac CTS appeared to have something dragging off the back of the vehicle, causing sparks on the roadway. As the deputy attempted to get behind the vehicle, it sped off and nearly spun out. The deputy initiated his emergency lights and the vehicle, which was being driven by a woman (not identified in court documents) with arrest warrants, was stopped. The deputy searched the vehicle and found a plastic bag that contained approximately 332.74 grams of methamphetamine and a total of $6,952 in cash. Inside the bag with the methamphetamine and cash was a wallet with Libertus’s driver’s license.
On March 29, 2018, a sergeant with the Newton County Sheriff’s Department responded to an address in reference to a suspicious vehicle. Once he got there, he saw a grey/silver-colored Chevrolet Camaro with Oklahoma plates in the driveway. He pulled in behind the vehicle and approached, knocking on the window and the roof to get Libertus, the driver, to exit. Libertus refused to do so and instead started the vehicle and attempted to flee by driving through the yard. The vehicle got stuck on some shrubbery, a fence, and cinderblock, and Libertus was unable to go any farther. Libertus bailed out of the vehicle and ran west through the woods with officers in pursuit. After a quarter-mile foot chase, Libertus came to a stop but had to be tased before he could be taken into custody. Officers searched Libertus and found approximately $4,430 in his pants pockets. Officers found another $1,591 in the vehicle, along with a scale that tested positive for methamphetamine, a glass bong, two cell phones, and other drug paraphernalia.
On April 9, 2018, investigators saw Libertus and the woman from the Nov. 10, 2017, arrest arrive together in a Chrysler 300 at a Newton County residence where they were about to execute a search warrant. The Chrysler pulled into the driveway, maneuvered around several parked vehicles, and continued about 100 yards into a wooded area immediately south of the residence. Libertus and two others attempted to conceal the Chrysler 300, which has been reported stolen, with tarps. When officers arrived, Libertus ran into the wooded area. As a Newton County detective arrived, he saw Libertus spring from the east side of the street and start running down the street. The detective drove toward him. Libertus then tried to cut back onto the property, however, there was a steep hillside and he was unable to make it up the hill. He turned around and ran across the street and into the driveway. He tried to shut the cattle gate so the detective couldn’t follow him in his vehicle, but was unable to, then attempted to run again. He tripped on some shrubbery, got up, tried to run, and then tripped on some more shrubbery and fell down again. The detective was then able to take him into custody. Libertus had $1,240 in his wallet and a key to the Chrysler 300 in his pocket.
The detective found a hollowed-out railroad tie near the vehicle. Inside was a camouflage box that contained a Ziploc bag of approximately 396 grams of methamphetamine, a used methamphetamine pipe, several distribution bags with methamphetamine residue in them, a bag of suspected marijuana, several bags of suspected synthetic marijuana, and a digital scale with suspected methamphetamine residue. Another detective found a hollowed-out log nearby that contained a black box with approximately two grams of methamphetamine.
On Sept. 4, 2018, a man in Newton County called emergency services after finding Libertus passed out behind the wheel in the middle of the roadway. A Newton County deputy attempted to wake Libertus several times; he finally started awake and said “I don’t have any money.” Libertus denied consent to search the vehicle, but one of the deputies saw a green and yellow bong between the driver’s seat and the passenger’s front seat. A detective went to seize the bong and noticed a black metal combination safe. The detective picked up the safe and it fell open, revealing numerous jewelry bags commonly used to package drugs as well as bags containing methamphetamine residue, gel caps, a set of digital scales with methamphetamine residue on them, and a bag containing more than 30 grams of methamphetamine. Libertus had approximately $1,245 in his pocket.
On Jan. 20, 2019, Libertus was again passed out in his vehicle. He fled from the police after being asked to step out of the vehicle. The pursuit lasted an hour and ended only after the Missouri State Highway Patrol threw down a spike strip. When the vehicle finally stopped, officers found nearly three pounds of methamphetamine strewn about the vehicle other drugs, and cash. In phone calls made after his arrest, Libertus tried to persuade his friends to burn up his truck.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Josephine L. Stockard. It was investigated by the FBI, the Ozarks Drug Enforcement Team, and the Newton County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department.