Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ringleader, others in major Ottawa prescription drug operation plead guilty

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 11/23/2012

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The Franklin County Drug Enforcement Unit has helped shut down a prescription drug trafficking ring in Ottawa that has led to a guilty plea from the ring’s leader and several of her codefendants.

Connie Edwards, 60, Ottawa, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute prescription drugs, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Wednesday in a news release. She faces 25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to running a prescription drug ring tied to the death of a man who died after taking a mixture made from prescription drugs, prosecutors said.          

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The Franklin County Drug Enforcement Unit has helped shut down a prescription drug trafficking ring in Ottawa that has led to a guilty plea from the ring’s leader and several of her codefendants.

Connie Edwards, 60, Ottawa, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute prescription drugs, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Wednesday in a news release. She faces 25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to running a prescription drug ring tied to the death of a man who died after taking a mixture made from prescription drugs, prosecutors said.          

In her plea, Edwards admitted that from Nov. 1, 2007, to Feb. 28, 2012, she conspired with others to distribute oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine and other prescription drugs in Ottawa. Her sentencing is set for March 4 in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed to recommend Edwards be sentenced to 25 years and a forfeiture judgment of $632,930, the news release said.

An investigation began early in 2010 when the Franklin County Drug Enforcement Unit received information that people working for Edwards were distributing prescription drugs in Ottawa, Grissom said in the release. 

The Ottawa Police Department, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation investigated the case.

“I am pleased to see that the many hours of investigation by the Franklin County Drug Enforcement Unit and the cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office is taking drug dealers and their dangerous product off the streets,” Jeff Curry, Franklin County sheriff, said in an email Friday. 

Sources told investigators Edwards rented to people who paid her in prescription pills, and she accepted stolen property in payment for pills, the news release said.

William Thomas Powell, who bought drugs from the Edwards’ organization, was found unconscious in the living room of his mother’s Ottawa home May 10, 2009. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed he died from taking a toxic combination of methadone, hydrocodone and carisoprodol, the release said.

Capt. Adam Weingartner, with the Ottawa Police Department, said in an email Wednesday the department is waiting until the conclusion of the drug cases before making further comments. Several Ottawa residents have pleaded guilty or are awaiting trial on charges in connection with the prescription drug ring.

Investigators learned that the afternoon before he died Powell went to Edwards’ house, where he bought a white powder he was told was methamphetamine. In fact, one of Edwards’ associates produced the powder by crushing prescription pills including hydrocodone, methadone and carisoprodol, the release said. 

Edwards was present when Powell bought the drugs, Grissom said in the release, but the associate handled the sale. Later that evening, Powell purchased prescription pills from Edwards, who delivered the pills to Powell in a van outside the Hidden Meadows apartment complex in Ottawa. Powell then took the pills and injected the substance he believed was methamphetamine, creating a toxic combination that caused his death, the release said.

Codefendants include:

• Brittany Edwards, 20, Ottawa, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and is set for sentencing Feb. 25.

     • Shirley Price, 45, Ottawa, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and is set for sentencing Dec. 12.

     • Dustin Price, 24, Ottawa, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and is set for sentencing Feb. 25.

     • Joel Keith Price, 55, Ottawa, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is set for sentencing Feb. 25.

     • Morgan Price, 22, Ottawa, who pleaded guilty to possession of morphine and is set for sentencing March 4.

     • Brandi Bivens, 30, Ottawa, who is awaiting trial.

     • Angela Mitchell, 35, Ottawa, who is awaiting trial.

     • Tamara Ledom, 37, Ottawa, who is awaiting trail.

     • Florence Edwards, 39, Ottawa, who is awaiting trail.

Investigators documented numerous incidents in which Edwards and her associates sold prescription drugs, Grissom said in the release. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheri McCracken is prosecuting.

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