CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTAP) - Two Parkersburg residents arrested as part of Project Parkersburg were in federal court Wednesday. Project Parkersburg was a major takedown and dismantling of a multi-state drug trafficking organization (DTO) responsible for distributing methamphetamine and heroin.
Jeffrey Hoyler, 56, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, while Nicholas Ryan Easton, 29, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
The long-term, joint investigation resulted in at least 29 individuals being charged in federal and state court, the seizure of 150 pounds of methamphetamine and, what was originally believed to be four pounds of heroin, have been determined to be comprised of nearly 291 grams of fentanyl.
“Enough fentanyl to kill nearly 150,000 people,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “While we originally believed that we seized four pounds of heroin as part of this operation, testing has recently shown that a significant portion of the seizure was comprised of nearly 291 grams of fentanyl. This is both scary and satisfying. Scary because so many West Virginians could have lost their lives and satisfying because law enforcement was able to stop this fentanyl and shut down a major drug organization.”
Hoyler admitted to transporting cash to Phoenix, Arizona at the direction of co-defendant Terrence McGuirk and pooling the money with co-defendants Aurelius Edmonds and Antoine Terry to purchase approximately 150 pounds of methamphetamine. It was intercepted by the FBI in Dayton, Ohio on September 19, 2018.
Hoyler faces 10 years to life in federal prison when he is sentenced on July 17, 2019.
Easton previously pleaded guilty in December 2018 where he admitted selling between 50 and 200 grams of methamphetamine.
Hoyler, and Easton were charged with 15 other defendants in a two-count federal indictment in October 2018.
Theodore “T.J.” Gibson, Edward Marks, Amy Rake, Troy Pastorino, and Colleen Moyle have pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.
United States District Judge Irene C. Berger presided over the hearings. Assistant United States Attorney Joshua C. Hanks is responsible for the prosecution.
Troy Pastorino, of Arizona, arrested in October 2018 during the 'Project Parkersburg' federal drug bust, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine.
Troy Pastorino entered his guilty plea before United States District Judge Irene C. Berger.
The long-term, joint investigation, named "Project Parkersburg," resulted in at least 29 individuals being charged in federal and state court, the seizure of 150 pounds of methamphetamine and 4 pounds of heroin.
In September 2018, during a long-term investigation of a methamphetamine trafficking organization operating in Parkersburg, the FBI learned that a large shipment of methamphetamine was being shipped from the Phoenix, Arizona area to Parkersburg where it was to be sold in and around Wood County.
On September 19, 2018, FBI and drug task force agents intercepted the shipment in Dayton, Ohio during a traffic stop of a Dodge Charger driven by Pastorino. Agents seized approximately 150 pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine in the trunk. During his plea hearing, Pastorino admitted that his role was to facilitate shipping the methamphetamine from Arizona.
Pastorino was charged with 16 other defendants in a two-count federal indictment in October 2018. He faces 10 years to life in federal prison when he is sentenced on June 12, 2019.
Another arrest is made from a major drug raid that began Thursday morning.
Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin says Edward Marks of South Parkersburg was arrested Friday and arraigned before a federal magistrate in Charleston.
He says the ongoing arrests are just the beginning of a crackdown on drugs, with increased involvement from federal agencies.
"We have guys within this department assigned to task forces aligning with the FBI. That gives them jurisdiction outside the state," Chief Martin said Friday. "It allows them to have more resources that we didn't have before so there are several different components to this relationship with the FBI that helps us in many ways we did not have before."
More than 30 arrests have been made in the drug sweeps that have involved federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
UPDATE: 10/11/2018, 6 P.M.
Thirty people face drug charges after a multi-state drug investigation centered in Wood County resulted in the seizure of record amounts of methamphetamine, along with heroin, cash and vehicles allegedly used to transport drugs.
Officials with the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI, and state and local law-enforcement in Ohio and West Virginia, announced the drug bust at a news conference at the Parkersburg Municipal Building on Thursday.
Eighteen people were arrested on federal charges, including people in Arizona, Florida and Michigan. Another 12 people face state charges in West Virginia.
Investigators say the 150 pounds of methamphetamine seized in September in Dayton, Ohio, as part of the investigation is a record for both Ohio and West Virginia.
According to the U.S. attorney's office, in December 2017, members of the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force executed a search warrant at a residence in Parkersburg during which they learned that large amounts of meth were being shipped to West Virginia from Mexico.
Witness interviews, financial records and informant information led to the identification of Parkersburg residents Terrance McGuirk, Antoine Terry and Aurelius Edmonds as individuals with access to the meth being shipped from the southern border to locations in West Virginia and Ohio.
Over the course of nine months, agents and task-force officers conducted an exhaustive investigation linking the Parkersburg operation to sources in Arizona.
Then, in September 2019, the investigation shifted to Dayton, Ohio. That's where authorities said Terry and Edmonds met with two Arizona men, Todd Land and Troy Pastorino, to pick up a shipment of controlled substances that included more than 150 pounds of meth that had been moved from a truck into a rented storage unit.
Investigators observed Pastorino load the drugs into the trunk of a Dodge Charger. Police seized the drugs after conducting a traffic stop of Pastorino.
Terry, Edmonds, and Land were arrested at a nearby business, and McGuirk was arrested at his hotel near the Dayton airport.
"Today is a significant day for West Virginia, the city of Parkersburg, Wood County and the surrounding multi-state area,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “A significant drug trafficking organization with connections to sources of supply in Mexico has been dismantled.
"Today is a day in which every participating law enforcement officer should be very proud. The level of cooperation between our federal, state and local law enforcement agencies is unprecedented and reaches beyond West Virginia’s borders and beyond America’s borders.
"As a result, the largest seizure of methamphetamine in our state’s history and a massive amount of heroin was seized before it reached our streets. No doubt lives have been saved because of the exemplary work of law enforcement at every level."
Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Pat Lefebure also commended the work of authorities.
“The arrests made today are the culmination of many months of hard work by the PNTF and federal authorities and will have a significant impact in not only Wood County but our surrounding areas as well.”
In addition to federal authorities, local agencies assisting in the investigation included Parkersburg police, the Wood County prosecuting attorney's office, the West Virginia State Police, the Wood County sheriff's office, Vienna police, the Parkersburg Narcotics and Violent Crimes Task Force and the West Virginia National Guard.
See all the suspects' names and most of their photos in the .PDF file titled "Wood Co Drug Bust Suspects October 11 2018" in the "Related Documents" section of this story, or click the link in the "Related Links" section to see the .PDF of suspect names and photos.
NOTE: This is an updated file. The photo of suspect Kirsten Johnson has been removed. An earlier version provided by authorities had an incorrect photo of Johnson.
ORIGINAL STORY: 10/11/2018, 11:29 AM
Federal authorities have scheduled a news conference for noon Thursday at the Parkersburg Municipal Building to discuss details of a major drug investigation.
Few details are available, but Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens says federal, state and local authorities carried out multiple drug busts across the county early Thursday morning.
The U.S. attorney's office in Charleston is in charge of the investigation.
Authorities have not released information about any arrests.
WTAP will livestream the news conference on our Facebook, and we'll have updates online and during our afternoon and evening newscasts as more information becomes available.