OWENSBORO, Ky. (KT) - Five Daviess County men have been arrested on federal drug-trafficking charges following what has been called the most significant, largest drug seizure in Owensboro history.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky says from September 2020 to the present, federal and local investigative agencies have conducted a long-term investigation into the Willie Watkins Drug Trafficking Organization, or DTO, believed to be trafficking in methamphetamine, counterfeit pharmaceutical pills believed to contain fentanyl, and marijuana.
According to the criminal complaints, between Jan. 6 and 21, Willie Watkins, 30, of Owensboro, coordinated the purchase of approximately 150 pounds of suspected methamphetamine with an unidentified male in the Los Angeles, California, area; and counterfeit pills containing suspected fentanyl from a source in the Phoenix, Arizona, area.
The complaints state that on Jan. 11 members of the DEA from multiple districts and local law enforcement conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle being operated by another suspected member of the Watkins DTO in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, as the vehicle traveled from Arizona toward the western district of Kentucky.
During a search of the vehicle after a K-9 alert, law enforcement recovered around 151 pounds of crystal meth, 3.5 pounds of counterfeit pills suspected of containing fentanyl, 21 pounds of marijuana, nine pounds of THC edibles, 14 pounds of THC related vape products and about one gram of ecstasy.
After learning of the stop, Watkins made several calls to others, discussing the seizure of the drugs and the amount of money he lost as a result, according to a legal wiretap.
In the wake of the seizure, Watkins was charged with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and 400 grams or more of fentanyl.
Additionally, on Jan. 13, federal and local law enforcement executed multiple search warrants at locations associated with the Watkins DTO in Owensboro, where they found more meth, counterfeit pills containing suspected fentanyl, marijuana, firearms and over $325,000 in cash.
Based on the evidence obtained, four additional members of the Watkins DTO, including Christopher McNary, 31, Richard Cason, 29, Keith Watkins, 28, and Samuel White, 27, all of Owensboro, were also named in a second criminal complaint with similar charges as Watkins.
“Traffickers should take heed to keep their poison out of Daviess County and the western district of Kentucky,” said U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman. “They disregard at their own peril as federal, state and local law enforcement here stand united to take their dope and send them to federal prison. Stay tuned; more to come.”
Owensboro Police Chief Art Ealum added, “This investigation is undoubtedly the most significant narcotics investigation in our department’s history, which speaks to the magnitude of the drug epidemic in the Owensboro Metropolitan Area. Our Street Crimes Unit, along with our federal and local partners, have worked tirelessly to take down this drug trafficking organization.”
If convicted, all five men face 10 years to life in prison, a fine of up to $10 million and at least five years of supervised release.