By Kathleen Berger
KSDK -- Twenty-four people have been arrested on federal charges involving an interstate marijuana trafficking organization.
The arrests are part of "Project Deliverance," a federal crackdown announced by US Attorney General Eric Holder earlier Thursday. Project Deliverance targets Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Yesterday's sweep includes investigations in 16 states, including Missouri. More than 420 drug trafficking suspects are arrested, but there's one heavy hitter in St. Louis who's on the run.
According to the indictment, 36-year-old David Ingram Henderson is the leader of an organization involved in the transportation of bulk quantities of marijuana from Arizona to the St. Louis area. The group operated from the summer of 2006 until just recently.
"Who has yet to be arrested; he's currently a fugitive, we're looking for him," said DEA Special Agent-In-Charge Harry Sommers of the St. Louis Division.
Guns have turned up as evidence in one of those arrests, as well as marijuana and cash. The DEA said Henderson's organization brought 1,000 kilograms of marijuana to St. Louis.
"Of course, they had individuals who were the sources from Arizona, who were being supplied by the Mexican cartels in Mexico," said Special Agent Sommers.
Sommers said the drugs were coming to St. Louis on various highways, from Arizona. The traffickers used rental vehicles, and they had decoy vehicles.
Salvador Linan, Edwardo Wilson and Emmanuel Gathrite are identified as the Arizona suppliers. One organization member would drive a rental vehicle loaded with marijuana while other members would occupy decoy rental vehicles designed to direct law enforcement attention away from the loaded vehicle.
The indictment alleges that members of the organization would use banks or casinos to exchange smaller bills generated from the sale of marijuana for larger bills which made it easier to conceal and transport to the suppliers in Arizona to pay for future shipments.
And considering street money is $5's $10's and $20's, Sommers said they had a method they used to lessen the load on the road.
"If you take a million dollars in $100 bills, it weights 22 pounds. If you break that down to $10 bills, it weighs 220 pounds," Sommers said.
One example listed in the indictment was on June 26, 2009. Members of the conspiracy inserted a total of $13,660 into slot machines at Ameristar Casino and immediately printed out paper vouchers which they cashed out for the full amount without ever playing the slot machines. Members of the conspiracy are also charged with operating indoor marijuana growing operations at various locations in St. Louis City and County.
Sommers said the suspects also had a teller at National City Bank who would make the exchange.
Looking closely at the indictment, all the suspects have nicknames. Henderson is known as "Soup." Sommers added the suspects have ties to the rap industry.
"Many of them are associated with and have some business connections with a rap studio here in St. Louis," said Sommers.
Here is a list of those indicted, both in Arizona and locally:
Salvador Rocha Linan, 33, Tucson, AZ;
Edwardo Armando Wilson, 38, Tucson, AZ;
Emmanuel Gathrite, 30, Tucson, AZ;
David Ingram Henderson, 36, Maryland Heights, MO.;
Corey T. Franklin, 33, Florissant, MO;
Nicholas Lamar Bates, 28, Florissant, MO;
Eddie Charles Mackey, Jr., 32, St. Louis, MO;
Ricco Perez Johnson, 35, Oklahoma City, OK;
Frederic Lamont Caldwell, 41, St. Louis, MO;
Tommy Lee Tolliver, 29, St. Louis, MO;
Stanley Christopher Bates, 30, St. Louis, MO;
Sean Ryan McQuiller, 30, St. Louis, MO;
Jesse James Nelson, 27, O'Fallon,MO.;
Cornell Roland Allen, 35, St. Louis, MO.;
Justin Strain, 30, Foristell, MO;
Askia Ingram, 33, Florissant, MO;
Michael David Harris, 28, Tucson, AZ;
John Gaddy, 27, St. Louis, MO.;
Steven Phillips, 24, St. Louis, MO.;
Bryant Hancock, 28, St. Louis, MO.;
Kiesha Tamia Givens, 31, St. Louis, MO.;
Brittany Dorine Cornell, 27, Florissant, MO.;
April Dionne Fultz, 28, St. Louis, MO;
Latonya Trenee Moore, 25, St. Charles, MO.