Springfield man sentenced to 35 years in prison for fentanyl conspiracy, illegal firearms

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A Springfield, Missouri man has been sentenced in federal court for his role in a conspiracy to distribute large quantities of fentanyl and for illegally possessing firearms.

Jerry Wheeler, also known as “Love,” 48, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark on November 21, 2023, to 35 years in federal prison without parole.

On December 15, 2022, Wheeler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and one count of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

Wheeler admitted that he participated in a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in Christian and Greene counties from September 23, 2018, to November 14, 2019. Wheeler was a supplier of fentanyl to several other fentanyl distributors in Springfield. He also admitted that he was in possession of a Sig Sauer .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol, an Izmash .308-caliber semi-automatic rifle, and a Hi-Point 9mm semi-automatic pistol in furtherance of the drug-trafficking conspiracy.

Court documents reveal that Wheeler was responsible for multi-kilogram fentanyl distribution. Often, the fentanyl was sold as heroin.

Law enforcement officers stopped co-defendant Sheron Loggins, also known as “Bane,” 50, of Florissant, Missouri, while he was driving on Interstate 44 toward Springfield on September 8, 2019. Loggins was transporting approximately 496 grams of fentanyl, representing over 4,000 potentially lethal doses. Wheeler admitted that he was the intended recipient of that fentanyl and that he intended to distribute it in Springfield.

On November 14, 2019, federal law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Wheeler’s residence. They found the loaded Sig Sauer pistol on top of a kitchen cabinet, the loaded Hi-Point pistol in a nightstand drawer in one bedroom, and the Izhmash rifle underneath a mattress in another bedroom. Agents also found a small amount of cocaine and fentanyl, as well as drug paraphernalia.

According to court documents, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that Missouri was one of only nine states west of the Mississippi River with an age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths exceeding 21.1 per 100,000 in 2020. The most recent statistics provided by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reveal that, in 2022, 1,577 Missourians fatally overdosed on opioids. This means that one in every 45 deaths in Missouri in 2022 can be attributed to an opioid overdose, with potent non-heroin opioids like fentanyl increasingly becoming the primary cause.

Court documents also cite analysis of CDC data by Families Against Fentanyl, indicating that fentanyl overdoses are now the leading cause of death among adults between ages 18 and 45 in the United States.

Wheeler is the second of 14 defendants to be sentenced in this case. Marquise D. Martin, 33, of Springfield, was sentenced on June 14, 2023, to 12 years in federal prison without parole. Loggins has pleaded guilty to participating in the drug-trafficking conspiracy and awaits sentencing.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron H. Black. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Springfield, Missouri, Police Department; the Greene County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Department; the Phelps County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Department; the Bourbon, Missouri, Police Department; and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

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