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March 17, 2006

Hughes County raid nets 13 arrests

HOLDENVILLE — Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies put the brakes on what Bill Peterson, district attorney in Hughes and Pontotoc counties, describes as a major drug distribution network in southeastern Oklahoma. Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, said 17 arrest warrants and 12 search warrants were executed around 6:30 a.m. Thursday at rural locations around Hughes County including Calvin and Holdenville. Peterson said 13 arrests were made Thursday and more warrants will be executed in the next few days. According to Peterson the warrants are related to a multi-agency investigation that began eight months ago.

"This is a sizable hit on drug distribution in southeastern Oklahoma," said Peterson. "It never ceases to amaze me how organized the drug task force is and how well the plan is executed."

Eleven people are in custody, including Woody Michael Rippetoe, 49, Calvin, who Woodward said was the primary target. According to Woodward, Rippetoe "always seemed to have dope to sell," including methamphetamine and marijuana.

Other arrests linked to the investigation include Michael Kent Blaylock, 47, Loretta Hance, 37, both of Calvin, Barbara Gail Pitts, 49, Michelle Bell, 31, John Bell, 31, Mary Chronister, 47, John Tallant, 39, Bernadine Borders, 38, Roger Crawford, 37, Karen Lee Arthur, 40, Darla Jean O’Kelley, 50, and Keith Lynn Walton, 40, all of Holdenville. All were taken to Hughes County Jail and charged with state and federal crimes.

"The Drug Task Forces in this area have worked tirelessly over the past several months using this information to build solid cases on some of the largest drug suppliers in Hughes County. In addition to dealing meth and marijuana, some of these individuals have ties to violent local biker gangs, and we are glad they've been removed from the community," Woodward said.

Although this investigation began several months ago, law enforcement officials in Hughes County have gathered information for several years about large quantities of methamphetamine and marijuana being distributed in the area according to Tom Cunningham, Oklahoma Drug Task Force coordinator.

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