SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A West Plains, Missouri man was convicted in federal court today for his role in a conspiracy to distribute large amounts of methamphetamine in Howell, Greene and Texas counties.
Luis Ortiz Rodriguez, 39, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough to 20 years and 10 months in federal prison without the possibility of parole.
On September 7, 2021, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Howell, Greene and Texas counties from December 31, 2015 to June 21, 2019. Rodriguez also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in connection with a crime of drug trafficking.
Rodriguez admitted to meeting co-defendant Jose I. Gonzales, 39, of West Plains after he was released from prison in March 2018. Rodriguez and Gonzales agreed to use Rodriguez’s source of supply and Gonzales’ connections to West Plains to distribute methamphetamine. Rodriguez paid $3,000 a pound to purchase methamphetamine in Oklahoma, which he transported to Missouri for distribution.
Rodriguez also admitted he had nearly a pound of meth on Jan. 4, 2019, but it was dumped shortly before law enforcement executed a search warrant that day. When officers executed the search warrant, Rodriguez had left the house. The kitchen sink was full of ice and the faucet was burning, which is a known tactic for getting rid of drugs.
Officers contacted Rodriguez in the parking lot of Casey’s General Store in West Plains as the home was searched. Rodriguez told officers there was an electronic safe in the house, which contained a .410 caliber Taurus revolver loaded with two .45 caliber cartridges and three shotgun shells. Rodriguez provided the combination to open the safe, and officers seized the firearm. Officers also seized a bag containing 1.64 grams of methamphetamine, a hydrocodone pill, additional ammunition and drug paraphernalia from the master bedroom.
Law enforcement officers seized more than five kilograms of methamphetamine from co-defendant Shirley J. Hicks, 64, of West Plains, a ringleader in the conspiracy. When law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Hicks’ home on July 24, 2018, they found a red toolbox inside a store/barn containing six bags containing a total of 5,627 kilograms of pure methamphetamine. Inside a bedroom closet in the home, officers also found 12 bags containing a total of 243 grams of pure methamphetamine in a black leather bag and a blue waterproof box containing 122.892 grams of pure methamphetamine. During the search, officers also found five handguns in the toolbox and five other firearms in the home. Officers also seized a total of $20,393, which Hicks admitted was proceeds from his methamphetamine distribution. Rodriguez took the lead in the plot after Hicks was arrested.
Rodriguez is the seventh defendant to plead guilty and be sentenced in the case. Hicks was sentenced to 20 years and one month in federal prison without parole. Gonzalez was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison without parole. Fontella J. Noose, 41, of Springfield, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole. Benny D. Griffin, 59, of West Plains, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison without parole. Jordan W. Gutierrez, 27, of West Plains, was sentenced to 12 years and six months in federal prison without parole. Shaun M. Ross, 44, of West Plains, was sentenced to six years in federal prison without parole.
Co-defendants Raymon F. Ortega, 65, of West Plains, and James E. Cooper, 55, of Mountain View, Mo., have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Jessica R. Eatmon. He was investigated by the South Central Drug Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Howell County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, West Plains, Mo. Police Department, and Mountain View, Mo., Police Department.