NEW: Final Conviction Secured in Portage Co. Drug Conspiracy
By Brandi Makuski
The last of 11 defendants in what’s been called a “massive” Portage Co. drug operation has been convicted in federal court.
Hurley C. Jackson, 34 of Milwaukee, was found guilty on Jan. 26 of participating in a conspiracy to distribute heroin. The jury reached its verdict after six hours of deliberation following a four-day trial in Madison.
The case originated in Portage Co. in May of 2014, when, according to Plover Narcotics Officer Brian Noel, he and two other local drug officers began to notice overlapping information between small-level heroin investigations throughout the county.
“We did further investigation…to where we realized there was a single source, at the time, for multiple dealers operating in different user groups,” Noel said via telephone interview in Sept., 2016. “Then we realized there was a connection. We worked it, collaborated and it turned into a larger investigation.”
Noel worked the case with Stevens Point Detective Mike Schultz and Portage County Sheriff’s Investigator Tony Gischia. The investigation lead the trio to a drug pipeline coming out of Chicago and Milwaukee.
“The case went on for, I would say, a year-and-a-half, two years, from start to finish,” Schultz said by phone on Friday. “I think the case, overall, put a huge dent in our heroin distribution in the central Wisconsin area.”
Schultz said the three officers each played a different role during the investigation; he worked with “different defendants and investigated different cases” to support the conspiracy case. Schultz said he also worked closely with undercover agents and oversaw drug buys.
Over the course of about 15 months, Schultz, Noel and Gischia — all members of the Central Wisconsin Drug Task Force — collaborated with an investigator from the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice, as well a prosecutor from the office of U.S. Attorney John W. Vaudreuil, to conduct 36 undercover drug purchases, known as “controlled buys” and seized approximately 33 grams of heroin in the area, valued at about $16,500.
The investigation, nicknamed Operation: Who’s the Boss was “massive”, according to Plover Police Chief Dan Ault, involving 166 known subjects, to include identifying 32 drug dealers and six known, nonlethal drug overdoses. During the investigation, detectives were able to retroactively track seven-and-a-half kilograms of heroin delivered to Portage, Wood and Waupaca counties between May, 2014 and Aug., 2015.
While investigators didn’t have enough evidence to charge all the known drug dealers involved, Schultz, Noel and Gischia were so thorough in their work, they were awarded the “Investigation of the Year” at the 2016 Wisconsin Narcotics Officers’ Conference last August.
An investigation into Jackson’s activities confirmed he’d been active in the conspiracy from 2013 through 2015, and was responsible for distributing more than 1,000 grams of heroin. He returns to federal court for sentencing in April, and faces a minimum mandatory of 20 years in prison. The maximum penalty for his crimes in life in prison.
“It’s definitely a sense of satisfaction,” Schultz said. “We all put a lot of effort into the case in one way or another, so it’s nice to have an outcome like this in the end.”
Defendants convicted in federal court
- Charles D. Hall, 31 of Waupaca, sentenced to 156 months (13 years) in federal prison for distributing heroin, sentenced Aug. 31, 2016.
- Cody Thompson, 24 of New Hope, sentenced to 30 months for distributing heroin on Jan. 21, 2016
- Megan Pray Genett, 21 of Belmont, sentenced to 24 months for distributing heroin on Feb. 2, 2016
- Marguerite “Beth” Tompkins, 24 of Stevens Point, sentenced to 60 months for conspiring to distribute heroin on March 8, 2016
- Kristy Dietel, 35 of Stevens Point, sentenced to 36 months for conspiring to distribute heroin on March 22, 2016
- Tiffany A. Bell, 25 of Plover, sentenced to 138 months (11-and-a-half years) in federal prison for conspiring to distribute heroin on April 15, 2016
- Gregory D. Richardson, 26 of Plover, sentenced to 120 months for conspiring to distribute heroin on April 22, 2016
- Hannah J. Hovick, 24 of Marshfield, sentenced to 30 months for distributing heroin on April 30, 2016
- Two additional defendants previously pleaded guilty in the conspiracy. Terrance D. Jackson, 30, and 37-year-old Dwight S. Williams, both of Milwaukee, will be sentenced on April 4. Hurley Jackson, Terrance Jackson and Williams are brothers.