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Meth bust cases may advance to higher court

Jun 9, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Cases against at least two defendants in last month's methamphetamine distribution bust are stalled in circuit court until a judge decides if enough probable cause exists for charges to proceed to a higher court.

Judge Robert B. Denhardt took under advisement charges against Shene Springfield and Lyle Haukaas to review witness testimony presented at the three-hour hearing Wednesday in Lander.

Haukaas and Springfield are charged with conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine.

The two defendants and a third co-defendant, Joseph Randall Summerlin, attended the preliminary hearing and heard evidence police think shows probable cause for the charges.

Summerlin is charged with a felony count of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine). The felony is punishable by up to seven years of jail time and a $15,000 fine.

The three are among seven so far arrested in the extensive countywide drug investigation that involved wiretapping, surveillance and the use of confidential informants. Timothy Pitt, who police say was the ringleader of the drug operation, Travis Fauque and Abigail White waived their right to a preliminary hearing and were automatically bound over to the 9th Judicial District Court.

Co-defendant Anthony Hernandez asked that his preliminary hearing be postponed until he could meet with his attorney.

All suspects except Summerlin are charged with conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine, a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years and a $25,000 fine. According to court testimony, Summerlin's connection to the case is an alleged purchase of methamphetamine from Pitt.

Testimony

Wednesday's proceedings were unique in that testimony and attorney argument was conducted for Summerlin, Springfield and Haukaas in one joint hearing. Most of what was said centered on Pitt as the top drug dealer and his co-defendants as his employees.

Division of Criminal Investigation special agent Brady Patrick described how Pitt, the leader of the "drug distribution network," would "front" drugs to his "associates" who would then sell the drugs. They would return the money to Pitt who then paid his source who is thought to have resided in Green River.

"Tim Pitt referred to (associates) as puppets," DCI special agent Andy Hanson testified. "They worked for him. He was the puppet master."

Patrick testified that a confidential informant advised authorities in January that Pitt was selling "large amounts" of methamphetamine. The Pitt residence at 264 W. Coal St. in Hudson soon became a target in the investigation.

After DCI used the confidential informant to make two drug purchases totaling 10 grams from Pitt in February, Patrick said a "trap and trace" device was installed on Pitt's telephone. He said the device allowed agents to monitor telephone numbers Pitt received and dialed. Agents soon identified "users, abusers and sellers in Fremont County," Patrick said.

After a wiretap was installed on Pitt's telephone, Patrick said agents were able to hear conversations and learned Pitt was operating a "methamphetamine distributing organization in Fremont County."

When agents later searched Pitt's home, Patrick said nearly an ounce, or 24 grams, of methamphetamine was found, as were several weight scales and baggies he said were used for packaging the drug. According to the two agents, a gram of methamphetamine sells for $100 to $150 in Fremont County, and heavy users could consume as much as a gram while most use a quarter-gram at a time.

Others involved

Patrick said agents learned of others involved in the alleged drug business by using video cameras situated at Pitt's residence, listening to the wiretap and following Pitt's activities. Among those identified was Fauque.

"Most conversations, if not all of the conversations, revolved around methamphetamine and money," Patrick said, adding Pitt benefited by the relationship because he had less contact with customers and was less likely to be caught by police.

"Tim Pitt was in charge of Travis Fauque," Patrick said. "Tim Pitt would give Travis Fauque instructions on what to do and how to do it."

Police conducted a search at Fauque's Lander residence, where Patrick said authorities found 2 ounces of crystal methamphetamine, more than 400 grams of liquid methamphetamine, weight scales and packaging material. He explained to the court the liquid substance is used to wash and clean the crystal drug.

Patrick said agencies learned Haukaas was an associate through interceptive phone calls. He described one text message from Haukaas telling Pitt he "has three hats."

"'Hat' in this context was $100 bills," Patrick said.

Police also identified Hernandez and Springfield.

"They were in a dating relationship and also what you would call a business relationship," Patrick said of Springfield and Pitt.

He spoke of a phone call between the couple when Springfield needed to bring $100 to Pitt, which Patrick said was part of a drug transaction.

He said Springfield on several occasions asked Pitt if he had to work.

"Ms. Springfield was referencing if Tim Pitt would be selling methamphetamine," Patrick said. "His sole source of income was selling methamphetamine."

Patrick testified that Springfield accompanied Pitt several times to the casino where he allegedly sold drugs.

Hanson said Springfield served as Pitt's assistant and that she knew he sold drugs.

"Mr. Pitt made his money selling controlled substances," Hanson said.

He later recalled a taped conversation when Springfield asked Pitt what he was doing.

Hanson said Pitt told her he was sitting and looking at his scale, to which she replied, "Oh, you have to work?"

Summerlin

Patrick said a confidential informant tipped off police about Summerlin's plan to deliver methamphetamine in Riverton. Patrick followed Summerlin into Riverton and advised a trooper about drugs being inside the vehicle. The trooper's K-9 drug-dog indicated on the vehicle and a search by the trooper revealed nearly 8 grams of methamphetamine.

According to court testimony, Summerlin admitted to police he purchased the drugs from Pitt.

Doubt

Attorney Nathan Jeppsen of Rock Springs said testimony did not show his client Springfield was involved in the drug-dealing business or had knowledge of it.

"This is guilt by association," he said.

Dan Caldwell, who represented Haukaas, said the state showed Pitt and Fauque were dealing drugs and that, "Mr. Pitt was an extremely poor businessman."

However, Caldwell argued the three references to his client in the case lacked sufficient information of his connection to the crimes.

"A lot of speculation, a lot of supposition, and a lot of conclusions," Caldwell said.

Prosecution

Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett called drug dealing a clandestine operation.

"We don't have Tim Pitt on the corner, saying, 'Get your meth here,'" Bennett said. "We have deals done under the cover of darkness."

He said Springfield assisted and aided in the overall smoothness of the business.

"Mr. Pitt wasn't sending his girlfriend out to sling his dope," Bennett said. "She was helping him in other ways."

Haukaas, Bennett said, was fronted with methamphetamine by Pitt and used code to facilitate transactions.

Bennett asked the court to consider the DCI investigation.

"Sometimes it's not always pretty to get where we are at right now, but that's the nature of drug dealing," Bennett said.

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