The United States Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett announced Thursday that Timothy A. Cheatham, Harmony, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence following his guilty plea to charges that he conspired with intent to distribute methamphetamine in and around the Brazil area.
"This prosecution is just one example of how effective law enforcement efforts can be when we work as a team," Hogsett said. "This particular defendant terrorized his community for years, and now he won't walk the streets anywhere in the Wabash Valley again for a long, long time."
Cheatham was formally charged with two counts each of class A felony Dealing Methamphetamine and class C felony Possession of Methamphetamine, along with one count of class D felony Maintaining a Common Nuisance.
On Jan. 12, 2010, Cheatham, then 44, was arrested by members of the Clay County Sheriff's Department, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Putnam County Sheriff's Department without incident at his residence on an initial charge of class A Dealing Methamphetamine and booked into the Clay County Justice Center.
Hogsett said the case against Cheatham was made more clear after undercover agents made purchases of methamphetamine from Ronald Ingalls, 38, Poland, an individual selling methamphetamine for Cheatham.
Soon after, agents from the DEA and deputies from the Clay County Sheriff's Department executed search warrants at both Cheatham's residence and the residence of his father in Reelsville.
During the search, officials seized methamphetamine, digital scales and packaging materials, as well as $76,167 in drug proceeds. Hogsett told The Brazil Times the money seized during the investigation has been forfeited and will be processed before returning to Clay County to be reinvested in local law enforcement efforts.
Cheatham admitted his participation in the distribution of large quantities of crystal methamphetamine in the Brazil area, stating he had distributed more than 4 pounds of methamphetamine he received from individuals in Indianapolis.
According to First Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler, who prosecuted the case for the government, Judge Lawrence also imposed five years supervised release following Cheatham's release from prison and ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine.
Ingalls had previously been sentenced and received a 10-year prison sentence for his participation in the drug trafficking conspiracy.
"It is my understanding that Timothy Cheatham falls into the category that the Violent Crime Initiative that the U.S. Attorney's office has been pursing for well over a year-and-a-half, going into our second year," Hogsett said. "I think this is a prime example of how the Violent Crime Initiative, hopefully, is helping areas like Brazil and Clay County remain as peaceful as they are, and maybe a little bit more so."
Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said he is thankful when cases like this end so the department can divert their resources and manpower on to the next case. He said he was grateful for the federal assistance.
"It's nice to know they are a phone call away and will be in here to help us when we develop cases like this," Heaton said.
Heaton also said having an offender federally prosecuted means knowing they will be off the streets longer.
"It's very nice and very welcome when the U.S. Attorney's office and the federal office or the DEA come in and help. They have so much more resources available to them and man-power than we do here in a small county," Heaton said. "At the same time, we know when (offenders) are prosecuted, they are going to be doing at least 85 percent of their time if not more, where on the state level it is mostly 50 percent or less, depending on what programs they get involved in in prison."
Brazil Police Chief Clint McQueen agreed with Heaton about working with federal agencies.
"It's great when (federal agencies) can step in and help us out when they have multiple resources such as the federal agents they employ, that they can dedicate resources and manpower to solve these chronic problems we have in the dealing of methamphetamine and other dangerous drugs in our community," McQueen said. "I appreciate the help they give us. The Sheriff's Department did a fine job working in conjunction with them. I commend their efforts. We are willing to work with them and federal law enforcement in any capacity."
Hogsett said he has been to Clay County, as the U.S. Attorney, approximately five times. He explained Clay County is the only county, other than urban Indiana areas, where Hogsett has visited so many times in order to announce prosecutions.
"I think it speaks volumes about the sheriff, police chief and their departments that (federal law enforcement) has such a positive, healthy working relationship with local law enforcement here in Clay County," Hogsett said. "There is no other county like Clay County or a community like Brazil where I have come as often to make positive announcements about productive, efficient and effective law enforcement."
In February of this year, a federal grand jury indictment involving allegations of drug trafficking through a methamphetamine network resulted in the arrest of 19 individuals, including Cheatham's spouse.
"There is no question that some of the evidence developed in the prosecution of Timothy Cheatham was helpful and beneficial to the investigation that led to the indictment of the 19 individuals earlier this year," Hogsett said. "I commend the sheriff and chief on their outstanding leadership."
All three officials agreed teamwork between the different departments is what it takes to complete cases and bring justice.
"Good team effort -- that's what it takes every time," McQueen said. "One of us can't do it alone."