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Criminal syndicate defendants arraigned

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Defendants face 20 years for marijuana possession, trafficking

By Bob White

 

By BOB WHITE bwhite@thenewsenterprise.com HARDIN COUNTY — Elizabethtown Department for Public Advocacy attorney Sheila Kyle-Reno said she’d never seen it before — alleged marijuana traffickers and growers charged with engaging in organized crime. Twice since March have people allegedly involved in two different criminal syndicates, both relating to marijuana, been charged with the Class B felony of engaging in organized crime — an offense which carries a minimum of 10 years for a conviction. The crime carries a maximum of 20 years imprisonment. Tuesday, five of seven people indicted in April by a grand jury were arraigned in Hardin Circuit Court. All but one of the five qualified for representation by the public defender’s office. All are being held in lieu of $25,000 bonds at the Hardin County Detention Center and are scheduled for a trial by jury on Feb. 9. Unless they post bond or make plea agreements with prosecutors between now and then, they will stay in jail. In a previous interview, Assistant Hardin County Attorney Jenny Pitts complimented the investigative efforts of police and Hardin County Narcotics Task Force agents who brought the two criminal syndicate cases to prosecutors’ attention. But Christopher Smith, brother of alleged syndicate member Michelle Smith, 34, said the charges are “pretty ludicrous” and a reeking example of “grandiose posturing” of “all-American problems” by police and prosecutors. “Anyone who has ever known my sister would say she could not possibly have had any other involvement than passive indifference and poor decision-making skills,” he said. The brother said his sister was dating another alleged syndicate member, 22-year-old Daniel R. Taylor, when a police investigation uncovered the alleged network of pot traffickers. “She is not a rocket scientist by any means,” Christopher Smith said, “nor does she embody any of the qualities of the likes of Tony Soprano.” Since taking on the bulk of the defendants, Department of Public Advocacy attorneys have declined to comment on specifics of the case. If charged with only marijuana-related charges, those defendants would face maximum sentences of 10 years at best. Some charged would face maximum sentences of five years. The Class B felony of engaging in organized crime “ups the ante,” Pitts said. Others charged in the same syndicate Smith and Taylor are accused of being involved in include Eric Olson, 34; Timothy Wallace, 20; June Goodlett, 33; Reynaldo Lopez III, 34; and Victor Antonio Montalvo, 37. Five people charged by state police with engaging in organized crime are awaiting review of their case by a Hardin County grand jury. All five charged have been arrested and jailed. A sixth person allegedly involved in that case remains at-large and was listed among Hardin County’s Most Wanted fugitives in Monday’s paper. Oscar Flores, 35, is accused of bringing 25-pound loads of marijuana into Hardin County on at least 30 occasions for the five others in the syndicate to distribute. Flores’ last known address was in Vine Grove, but he’s thought to have ties in Nashville, Tenn. Others involved in that alleged crime ring include: Seth Curry, 24; Kevin Koenig, 20; Michael Anthony Martinez, 22; Frank Fantasia, 43; and Daniel Dressler, 18. Some of the Flores syndicate are being held at the Hardin County Detention Center on as much as $100,000 bonds. Bob White can be reached at (270) 505-1750.