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Three sought in Montgomery meth probe

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

MONTGOMERY COUNTY — Three suspects are being sought in connection with a multi-jurisdictional investigation that resulted in the arrests of 16 other people Friday for crystal methamphetamine distribution in Montgomery County.

According to Montgomery County Sheriff C.H. Partin, Daniel Leonard Price, 46, of Blacksburg; Alexis O’Neill Marie Bentley, 23, of Floyd County, and Brandon Dale Sweeney, 37, of Radford, are each wanted in connection with an investigation named “Operation Crankdown.”

Crank is a street name for methamphetamine (meth), a stimulate drug typically manufactured for street sale in clandestine labs from over-the-counter ingredients.

A six-month Montgomery County grand jury investigation recently returned 66 charges against 19 suspects alleged to have taken part in a conspiracy to bring crystal meth into Montgomery County from Georgia, for distribution. All but the three wanted suspects were arrested Friday.

Partin says in a press release issued Monday afternoon the investigation, initiated in May 2017, involved multiple controlled purchases of crystal meth from four suspects between July and September 2017.

“During the investigation, deputies found there was one primary source of the methamphetamine, and the group of people were conspiring together to transport and distribute methamphetamine within Montgomery County,” the press release states.

It goes on to allege Aaron Hixon, 44, of Blacksburg was supplying crystal meth to Montgomery County and the New River Valley. When Hixon was arrested on an unrelated charge in January, Partin says, authorities were able to determine most of the meth was being sourced out of Georgia.

According to Pulaski County Circuit Court records, Hixon was arrested in Pulaski County Jan. 9, 2018, and later convicted on charges of possession of a Schedule I/II drug, driving after being declared a habitual offender (second offense), and reckless driving.

Police allege Hixon made at least 18 trips to Georgia to bring meth back to Montgomery County between September 2017 and his January arrest in Pulaski County. Those trips allegedly resulted in 1,022 grams of the drug being brought into Montgomery County.

Hixon was indicted by the grand jury on one count each of operating a continuing criminal enterprise to distribute over 250 grams of methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine, and 18 counts of transporting over an ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia.

The grand jury also returned indictments against the following:

• Brandon Michael Keister, 31, of Blacksburg, one count each of conspiracy to distribute over 10 grams of methamphetamine, conspiracy to transport over an ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia and transport over an ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia.

• Harsh Chauhan, 22, of Christiansburg, one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

• Dawnya Marie Sawyers, 33, of Christiansburg, one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

• Ronald Michael Keister, 53, of Blacksburg, one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

• Troy Allen Donaghy, 55, of Christiansburg, one count of conspiracy to distribute over 10 grams of methamphetamine, two counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, and four counts of second or subsequent offense distribution of methamphetamine.

• Michael Thomas Dowdy, 53, of Blacksburg, one count each of conspiracy to distribute over 10 grams of methamphetamine, one count of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.

• Shawn Clinton Santolla, 35, of Giles County, one count each of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, conspiracy to transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia, and two counts of transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia.

• Jason Aaron Fizer, 38, of Pilot, one count each of conspiracy to transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, and three counts of transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia.

• Terry Wayne Miller, 55, of Giles County, one count each of transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia and conspiracy to transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia.

• Heather Renee Hixon, 43, of Blacksburg, one count each of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia, and three counts of transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia.

• Donna Jean Collins, 61, of Albany, Ga., one count each of conspiracy to transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia and conspiracy to distribute over 10 grams of methamphetamine.

• Eric Jon Tollefson, 54, of Albany, Ga., one count each of conspiracy to transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia and conspiracy to distribute over 10 grams of methamphetamine.

• Trista Gale Smith, 33, of Blacksburg, one count each of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, conspiracy to transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia and transport over one ounce of methamphetamine into Virginia.

• Jonathan Michael Smith, 45, of Blacksburg, one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

• Jeremy Braden Elliott, 32, of Blacksburg, one count each of distribution of methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, and two counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Partin said U.S. Marshal’s in Georgia arrested Tollefson and Collins in Georgia Friday. During their arrest, he says, authorities located 18 firearms, including one that was stolen and a machine gun. Over 1,000 rounds of ammunition also were seized. Charges are pending regarding the firearms.

Tollefson and Collins are being held in Georgia pending extradition to Montgomery County.

Those arrested in Montgomery County Friday were being held without bond at various facilities following their arrest.

Price is wanted on three counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, while Sweeney is wanted on one count of conspiracy to distribute over 10 grams of methamphetamine, and Bentley, one count of distribution of methamphetamine.

Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Price, Bentley and Sweeney are asked to call their local law enforcement agency of Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, 382-6915.

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