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2004 National HIDTA Program Award

North Texas HIDTA - Northern Drug Squad (NDS)

In 2002, the NDS, which is a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) lead HIDTA Initiative, initiated an investigation into Scotty Jay Pilcher who was identified as a major methamphetamine (METH) distributor. The NDS executed a search warrant at Pilcher's residence resulting in the arrest of 9 subjects, and the seizure of 53,000 pseudoephedrine tablets and 38 firearms. On the same day, the Pilcher investigation was approved as an OCEDTF investigation and was designated “Operation White Mercury”.

As the Pilcher investigation continued, the NDS executed numerous search warrants, resulting in the dismantling of 6 clandestine laboratories and a “super lab”, located on Pilcher's grandfather's property. Pilcher and other co-conspirators later admitted that over 100 lbs of METH had been manufactured at the super lab between August of 2001 and April of 2002.

On May 14, 2003 the NDS indicted 18 subjects in the Pilcher investigation. At that time, Paul Lynn Schlieve, a former University of North Texas professor was identified as financing the manufacture of METH at the Pines 2 Paradise (P2P) ranch in rural Cooke County, Texas. The acronym P2P (A reference to an old technique for manufacturing METH) was intentional.

After the referenced indictments, several subjects began providing proffer statements. These statements and other suspicious activity led investigators to a Walgreen Pharmacy in Denton, Texas. DEA Diversion conducted numerous interviews and determined that Pilcher and his associates had been allowed to purchase unlimited quantities of pseudoephedrine. Further, Walgreen had failed to comply with federal regulations and no suspicious purchase reports had been filed with DEA.

Walgreen's subsequently turned over a surveillance video showing subject Donnie Pence, an associate of subject Pilcher, purchasing two shopping carts full of pseudoephedrine tablets at the Denton, Texas Walgreen at 2:00 am in the morning and took almost two hours to check out due to the packaging and sales restrictions.

On September 10, 2003, 7 additional subjects, including Dr. Schlieve, were charged in a superceding indictment. On January 23, 2004, Dr. Schlieve was convicted by a jury of his peers. By the time of Dr. Schlieve's trial, the other 24 people charged in the conspiracy had pled guilty. As a result of the Pilcher investigation and the prosecution of Dr. Schlieve, “D” magazine, a prominent Dallas based publication, wrote an excellent article in the summer of 2004, on Dr. Schlieve that helped to publicize the nature and extent of the METH problem in North East Texas.

The NDS also initiated an investigation into Jesus Valencia Farias and his family. The Farias investigation demonstrated that traditional Mexican Drug Cartels are heavily involved in the distribution METH/ICE in North East Texas. The Farias investigation led to 11 federal indictments and the seizure of over 30 lbs of METH/ICE. An additional 7 indictments are anticipated in early 2005.

In August of 2003, United States Attorney (USA) Matt Orwig responded to the Pilcher investigation, “Operation White Mercury,” the Farias investigation, and other prominent cases by creating the Eastern District METH Initiative (EDMI) with the NDS. The EDMI was created out of the growing METH problem, which is prevalent within the Eastern District of Texas. The initiation of the EDMI was a direct result of “Operation White Mercury” and the action taken by USA Orwig. Over the last 12 months the EDMI has facilitated the federal prosecution of numerous worthy subjects and has generated several multi-defendant sub-investigations, which are being worked as stand alone cases.

As of September 13, 2004, the EDMI has produced 27 indictments, 20 arrests, 19 convictions, 8 criminal enterprise disruptions, 5 criminal complaints, $79,235 in forfeitures (approximately $20,000 more pending), and the seizure of 13.611 Kilos (30 lbs) of METH (Cocaine, Marijuana, GHB and other drugs have also been seized). “Operation White Mercury” has been a very cost effective investigation. The historical nature of the conspiracy has eliminated the need for many expensive proactive investigative techniques. To date, more than 50 overt acts have been identified.

The most remarkable accomplishments associated with the EDMI occurred during the summer of 2004. Relying on source information, the NDS initiated an investigation concerning a subject identified as Prindle. To date, a dozen subjects associated with Prindle have been identified and three have been indicted. Numerous additional federal indictments are anticipated. On August 26, 2004 the most significant subject in the Prindle investigation was arrested. The NDS in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies utilized a source to secure the delivery of over 17 lbs of METH/ICE. This METH was obtained from Leionardo Alvarado Blanco, a.k.a. “El Tigre.” It was 94% pure and the street value easily exceeds one million dollars. The 17 lbs of METH is believed to have originated from Mexico and efforts are underway to fully identify the source of supply thereby developing a CPOT connection.

Finally, in August 2004 an FBI source provided information that led to the arrest of Richard Carl Roberts and the search of Roberts' residence wherein METH, firearms, and a videotape containing child pornography were discovered. The investigation revealed that Roberts had been using METH to obtain the cooperation of a juvenile for the purpose of manufacturing child pornography, which Roberts intended to distribute over the Internet. On September 8, 2004 Roberts was charged in a 5 count federal indictment.

Captioned matter and the associated sub-investigations are a true cooperative effort of not only the larger federal agencies involved in the EDMI, but that of local law enforcement agencies. Most, if not all, of the local law enforcement agencies participating within the EDMI acquiesced their prosecutive venue on very deserving subjects and instead have allowed for federal prosecution within a larger conspiracy investigation. In the fall of 2004, 12 to 16 additional indictments are anticipated.

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Last Updated: February 7, 2005

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