Meth kingpin is sentenced

OKEECHOBEE — The purported kingpin in a methamphetamine distribution ring in Okeechobee and surrounding counties has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.

Steven Lee ‘Wildman’ Oakes, 59, was sentenced June 1 by U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez. Oakes, of Davenport, was also ordered to serve five years probation once he is released from prison.

Fifteen other co-conspirators, including nine Okeechobee residents, had already been sentenced for their part in the ring that was disbanded in an Aug. 28, 2015, raid. A total of 44 people were arrested in the 4 a.m. raid carried out by 15 takedown teams in Okeechobee, Glades, Highlands and Polk counties.

Oakes, said assistant state attorney Ashley Albright, would go get the meth then bring it to Okeechobee for distribution.

“The guy traveled to Lorida, to Okeechobee, to Glades County and to Brighton Reservation. He was high up in the organization,” said Mr. Albright in an earlier interview. “We were able to show people getting it (meth) from Oakes and redistributing it.”

As of Monday, June 6, the prosecutor said he has 16 cases that have not yet gone to court on state charges. The remaining 12 have taken plea offers that consisted of six months in the Okeechobee County Jail, to be followed by 12 months probation and an adjudication of guilt.

One of those arrested on state charges — Ladonna Marie Hopewell, 28 — received a 24-month state prison sentence because of her prior arrests, said Mr. Albright.

Following last week’s sentencing, U.S. attorney Wilfredo A. Ferrer said Oakes and his conspirators had now been held accountable for their respective parts in the narcotics trafficking enterprise.

“However, the prosecution of Oakes and his conspirators has not put an end to the problem,” said Mr. Ferrer in a press release. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners are committed to identifying for prosecution those who place the public’s safety and quality-of-life in jeopardy.”

Sheriff Paul May said the arrests help curb the distribution of meth in Okeechobee County.

“With the help of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, the defendants were brought to justice and a dent was placed in the illegal trafficking of methamphetamine in and around our county,” he said. “We will continue to work with our allies to identify for prosecution those who bring illicit narcotics into our communities.”

Other co-conspirators recently sentenced in federal court were: Jetta Lyn Frake, Lorida, 70 months; Lacy Junior Locklear, Davenport, 188 months; Stephen Patrick Hall, Jr., Dundee, 190 months; Daniel John Alsdorf, Okeechobee, 96 months; James ‘Buddy’ Carter, Lakeport, 87 months; Teresa Lee Green, Okeechobee, 90 months; Tanner Lynn Carter, Lakeport, 48 months; Felisha Michelle Leitner, Okeechobee, 70 months; David Allen Sparks, Okeechobee, 60 months; Jamie Lea Hewitt, Okeechobee, 121 months; Jessica Marie Bell, Okeechobee, 65 months; Vickie Lynn Johnson, Okeechobee, 90 months; Travis Wayne Carr, Okeechobee, 70 months; and Timothy Dale Reid, Okeechobee, 70 months.

“The federal government does a wonderful job assisting us in trafficking cases in these large amounts of narcotics. Their system is just and swift,” said Major Noel Stephen, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO). “These people were significant in the distribution of meth in our county.

“We got very deep into the operation of a multi-state drug ring,” he added.

He went on to explain because this was a long and involved investigation the cost was extreme and would not have been possible without the help of the federal and state agencies.

“The cost associated with an 18-month investigation is pretty extreme,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “But, the outcome was rewarding.”

Maj. Stephen added that because multiple agencies worked together they were able to “get to the root of the problem.”

And, in a manner of speaking, this probe is continuing at the local level.

“There are spinoffs still being done by the Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force to date,” Maj. Stephen pointed out.

Taking part in the investigation and raid was personnel from the: Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office; Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force; Okeechobee City Police Department; Drug Enforcement Administration; Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Highlands County Sheriff’s Office; Glades County Sheriff’s Office; St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office; Fort Pierce Police Department; Fort Pierce offices of the U.S. Marshal’s Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Port St. Lucie Police Department; Martin County Sheriff’s Office; U.S. Border Patrol; and, the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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