Crime

Meth ring linking Branson, Missouri, to Arizona broken up with 15 indicted, feds say

Kansas City Crime Stoppers Most Wanted Fugitives

Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers most wanted fugitives. Updated Dec. 27, 2017.
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Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers most wanted fugitives. Updated Dec. 27, 2017.

Six Missourians were among 15 people indicted by a federal grand jury on accusations they played a role in shipping pounds of methamphetamine from Arizona to southern Missouri in what authorities called a large-scale conspiracy.

Those indicted in the conspiracy were accused of distributing meth in the state’s southern counties of Greene, Christian, Polk and Taney from June 2017 to March of this year, according to court documents.

The investigation began when officers seized nearly two pounds of meth from a Branson hotel room. The drugs were supplied by a man in Tuscon, Arizona, authorities said.

That man, Manual Edgardo Cortez, used people to transport meth from Arizona to Branson, according to federal prosecutors. On some of those trips, the carriers moved 15-pound loads of the drug.

Then in February during a traffic stop, Arizona state troopers seized about eight pounds of meth apparently destined for Springfield, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Missouri.

Missourians charged in the conspiracy include Gregory Hopper, 34, and Amanda Robinson, 27, both of Springfield; Leslie Ray, 49, and Melissa Melencamp, 42, both of Branson; Olivia Fluke, 34, of Reeds Spring; Jason Brookshire, 37, of Aurora.

Among the accusations, Hopper and Robinson were also charged with possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. They allegedly had 15 firearms, including four assault rifles, 10 handguns and a shotgun, federal prosecutors said.

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Luke Nozicka covers local crime and federal courts for The Kansas City Star. Before joining The Star, he covered breaking news and courts for The Des Moines Register.

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