KANSAS CITY, Mo. (News Release) -- Four more defendants have been sentenced in federal court this week for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute more than $1 million worth of methamphetamine in southern Missouri and in the Kansas City, Mo., area.
Travis Lee Bethel, 46, of Urbana, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Greg Kays today to nine years and 10 months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Bethel to pay the government a money judgment of $1,060,070.
Jake Ian Nixon, 20, of Springfield, Mo., was sentenced on Tuesday, April 24, 2018, to eight years and four months in federal prison without parole ordered to pay the government a money judgment of $181,000. Two co-defendants, Tara L. Harken, 45, of Marion, Ill., and Kara Rene Baze, 25, of Springfield, were each sentenced on the same day to five years of probation and each ordered to pay the government a money judgment of $302,000.
On Aug. 11, 2017, Bethel pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine from Jan. 1, 2014, to Nov. 17, 2016, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Co-defendant Kenneth Bryant Lake, 57, of Strafford, Mo., was the original head of the drug-trafficking organization, coordinating vehicle transport shipments of methamphetamine from a Mexican cartel source in Texas to Springfield. Conspirators in Springfield divided the methamphetamine for distribution to the Lebanon, Mo., and Kansas City, Mo., areas. Lake has pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.
Co-defendant Michael Ryan Nevatt, 28, of Springfield, subsequently became the head of the organization. Nevatt was convicted at trial on April 6, 2018, of all seven counts contained in a Nov. 17, 2016, federal indictment. Nevatt and other conspirators made regular trips, and sometimes travelled several times a week, to pick up multiple-pound supplies of methamphetamine. For example, Nevatt traveled to Texas regularly to pick up 10 pounds of methamphetamine and bring it back to Springfield. Nevatt would later return to Texas with approximately $100,000 in cash to pay for it. On one occasion, Nevatt met sources in Dallas, Texas, to purchase 40 pounds of methamphetamine. Mexican sources also delivered multiple-pound shipments of methamphetamine by truck or car to Springfield.
Bethel assisted Nevatt with distributing more than 50 kilograms of methamphetamine for Nevatt’s organization and with collecting drug proceeds for methamphetamine delivered. Bethel also provided Nevatt and others with salvage title vehicles. These vehicles were traded for methamphetamine and/or paid for with drug proceeds. Bethel also assisted Nevatt with repairs for vehicles, again paid for with methamphetamine or drug proceeds.
Nixon was arrested by Springfield police officers on July 15, 2015, for possession of approximately three ounces of methamphetamine and a .32-caliber handgun. Nixon had been purchasing quarter pound quantities of methamphetamine in Springfield every other day for $3,400. Nixon was arrested on three more occasions in 2016; at the time of each of those arrests, Nixon was in possession of methamphetamine and a firearm. He was arrested again on June 9, 2016, for possession of methamphetamine.
Nixon pleaded guilty on Aug. 8, 2017, to the drug-trafficking and money-laundering conspiracies and to possessing firearms in furtherance of drug-trafficking crimes.
Harken, who is Nevatt’s mother, and Baze, who is the mother of one of Nevatt’s children, both pleaded guilty to traveling across state lines in aid of a racketeering enterprise. Harken and Baze admitted that they facilitated the drug-trafficking and money-laundering conspiracies. Harken moved and stored property purchased with drug proceeds or used in Nevatt’s money-laundering and drug-tracking conspiracy, stored drug proceeds, and rented a storage unit used in the conspiracy. Baze stored drug proceeds and rented facilities, rooms and cars used in the conspiracy.
On Aug. 28, 2015, Baze and Lake were arrested during a search at a hotel room in Springfield. Officers recovered $102,787, a loaded handgun and a small amount of methamphetamine. Nevatt and co-defendant Jarub Ray Baird, 27, of Carthage, arrived in a black Corvette and after a brief chase were apprehended.
Bethel, Nixon, Harken and Baze are among 15 defendants who have been convicted in this case. Baird was sentenced on April 18, 2018, to 11 years and 10 months in federal prison without parole. Scott Bryan Sands, 53, of Springfield, was sentenced on April 12, 2018, to 10 years and 10 months in federal prison without parole. Aaron Randall Stull, 53, of Springfield, was sentenced on Feb. 8, 2018, to eight years in federal prison without parole.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Rhoades and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashleigh Ragner. It was investigated by the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Springfield, Mo., Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Central Oklahoma Metro Interdiction Team.