U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Oklahoma Mark Green announced Thursday his office indicted 17 people for their involvement running a meth ring across eastern Oklahoma.
Investigators claim the leader of the operation, 35-year-old Cody McClendon, controlled it all from his prison cell.
In January, authorities indicted McClendon and fellow inmate Michael Lincoln for their roles in the ring. Indictment documents call them "War Chiefs," the highest-ranking members of a prison gang called Indian Brother Hood. The indictment states McClendon and Lincoln used their gang ties to run the drug ring and collect debts. Six other people said to be their drug dealers were also indicted in January.
Two months later, investigators say they've now charged 17 people, most of them meth dealers and drug mules.
The individuals facing drug conspiracy charges are as follow:
Cody McClendon, 35, Tahlequah
Michael Lincoln, 39, Tulsa
Amber Claphan, 33, Stilwell
Donald Trammel, 40, Tahlequah
Samantha Smith, 21, Muskogee
Teresa Chagolla, 54, Tahlequah
Jacob Masters Jr, 54, Tulsa
Nathan Green, 27, Hulbert
Dusty Drywater, 33, Tahlequah
Ashley Steele, 29, Tahlequah
Jimmy Sequichie Jr, 24, Tahlequah
Regina Ann Ballard aka "Regina Hummingbird," 37, Stilwell
Matilda Birdtail, 20, Tahlequah
Frederic Beck Jr, 53, Tahlequah
Gary Wilder, 35, Tahlequah
Brenda Airington, 54, Kellyville
Bryan LaFavor, 34, Checotah
Several defendants face additional charges, including continual criminal enterprise, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine, use of a communication device in furtherance of drug trafficking, possession of firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, felon in possession of firearm and drug forgeiture.
Authorities say McClendon used a smuggled cell phone to carry out daily operations.
"Phone calls, text messages and by communicating by the social media website Facebook," Green explained.
The bust effectively ends one of the largest meth rings in the state, says Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King.
"This is the biggest methamphetamine bust that I've seen as far as magnitude and the effect it's having on communities across the state," King says.
A dozen different agencies worked on this investigation - local, state and federal. Several department leaders say agency cooperation was key in this investigation, which they call Operation Home of the Brave.
"I've been in law enforcement almost 20 years, and I have never seen a case where this many agencies willingly worked together for a six-month, eight-month period," King says.
Chief Gary Wansick of McAlester Police agreed.
"To be part of this and to help and be successful like these guys have been is wonderful," Wansick says.
Investigators would not comment on whether more arrests will be made in Operation Home of the Brave, but say it is far from over.