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Clay, Putnam meth arrests may have ties to Mexico

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A traffic stop made by Putnam County Sheriff's deputies Wednesday morning may have led to arrests in a three-county drug ring with possible ties to Mexico.

Putnam County Sheriff Mark Frisbie told the Banner-Graphic that at approximately 4:30 a.m. Deputy Dwight Simmons stopped a vehicle at C.R. 90 E and Burma Road, just east of Cloverdale.

A K-9 search of the vehicle, led to the discovery of just under three pounds of crystal methamphetamine, and the arrest of the driver, David W. Gibson, 33, and passenger Benjamin L. Hogan, 25. Both men are being held at the Putnam County Jail, Gibson on the charge of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deal and Hogan for possession of methamphetamine over 3 grams.

The stop was only the beginning in what Frisbie called "a massive investigation spearheaded by (Putnam County) officers and involving the United Drug Task Force, Clay County Sheriff's Office and Troopers from the Indiana State Police Drug Enforcement Section."

Information obtained during the stop gave probable cause to obtain a search warrant for the home of Aaron Burk, 28, Terre Haute, where methamphetamine paraphernalia, small quantities of crystal methamphetamine and small quantities of marijuana were found, in addition to two loaded assault rifles.

While the search of the home was taking place, officers had stopped and searched Burk's vehicle in Vigo County. They found more than 3 grams of methamphetamine and just under $4,000 in cash.

Burk, his wife Shelly, and a friend Gregory Vanes, 26, were arrested. They were each charged with possession of methamphetamine over 3 grams and are being held at the Clay County Jail.

Meanwhile in Clay County, officers arrested an alleged associate of Burk, James Hanson at his home, 925 E Washington, Knightsville. There, they found one pound of crystal methamphetamine and $8,000 in cash.

Hanson, as well as his girlfriend, Brandi Diann Howlett, 20, were arrested as part of the investigation. They are also being held in the Clay County Jail.

Frisbie said he has reason to believe the methamphetamine found in the Putnam County stop, in residue at the Burk's residence and at the Hanson residence is pure methamphetamine, also known as "ice", which he said he has seen a rise in lately.

"This is not the kind of methamphetamine that is manufactured locally. This is more than likely imported from Mexico," he said. "So this is a highly significant arrest.

"We had excellent departmental cooperation between the four major agencies involved. My office has been working very closely with the new prosecutor and developed a zero tolerance (policy) in this county," he said.



By LINDA MESSMER lindamessmer@yahoo.com

Five people were arrested in Clay County Jan. 12, on a variety of methamphetamine related charges. James J. Hansen, Aaron Burk, Shelly Burk, Gregory J. Vanes and Brandi D. Howlett were all taken to the Clay County Jail.

Howlett and Shelly Burk bonded out and have an initial hearing scheduled for Jan. 26, in Clay Circuit Court. Hansen, Vanes and Aaron Burk remain in the Clay County Jail. Their initial hearings have not been set but it's possible they could go to court today.

Drug arrests were made in Putnam County on Jan. 12, also. It's believed those suspects are involved with the five Clay County suspects.

Tammy Burk, the sister of Aaron Burk was arrested Jan. 13, on drug related charges. She is being held in the Putnam County Jail.

It is believed the arrests in Clay County and Putnam County involve a meth ring importing methamphetamine from Mexico.

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