Two defendants pleaded guilty during their arraignments in district court on Friday in a Natrona County-wide methamphetamine conspiracy case, and three others pleaded not guilty.
Four defendants’ cases have been transferred to federal court, Assistant Attorney Mike Blonigen said after the arraignments.
One of those federal defendants, Michael “Money Mike” Perez, was the alleged ringleader of the conspiracy, according to court documents. He has been charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon in possession of firearms. If convicted on all counts, he could face up to life imprisonment
The other federal defendants are Keith Crakaal — charged with conspiracy, possession of stolen firearms and felon in possession of firearms — and Jerry Lane and Kristopher Hodgins, each charged with one conspiracy count.
On the state district level, Blake Creekmore and Benjamin Wentz pleaded guilty Friday to the conspiracy counts. Their sentencings will be set later.
Pleading not guilty were Kenneth Dalton, Makayla Helms-Pickett and Amanda Rodriguez, who is Crakaal’s sister. Their cases will be set later for trial.
Austin Martin pleaded guilty a while ago in a related case and the conspiracy count was dismissed, Blonigen said.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents interviewed Wentz at a home in the 400 Block of South McKinley Street in Casper on Sept. 30. Wentz allegedly told agents that he’d recently sold meth and that he sold it to “anyone and everyone who wanted some.” Wentz also told investigators that Rodriguez was his main source.
Wentz allegedly said he had been selling methamphetamine since he was released from jail in April.
Agents seized Wentz’s phone and saw several drug-related conversations between Wentz and Rodriguez.
DCI agents cite a specific text message Creekmore sent to Wentz requesting $30 worth of methamphetamine. Speaking with investigators, Creekmore said he met Wentz in jail. He said Wentz told him he could get him methamphetamine any time he wanted it.
Creekmore also allegedly told agents that he got his methamphetamine from Dalton before selling it.
The investigation continued through October and most of the defendants were arrested in November, according to the affidavit.
A confidential informant told agents that Perez was a source of Dalton’s methamphetamine. The source also said Hodgins was selling methamphetamine to Keith Crackaal and Perez was another source for Crackaal.
Multiple sources told investigators that Lane was a primary source of methamphetamine to redistribute. However, some sources reported having a “falling out” with Lane, so they took their business to Perez.
After Perez’s arrest, investigators learned he “carries heavy,” as in weapons. One informant reportedly told DCI agents that Perez also had “thousands of dollars in his pockets.”