A West Plains man was sentenced Tuesday in federal court for leading a conspiracy which distributed 360 kilograms of methamphetamine in southern Missouri over a three-year period.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri, 38-year-old James W. Fithen, Jr., also known as “Boss,” was sentenced was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Beth Phillips to 28 years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Fithen to pay a monitary judgment of $3.6 million, which represents a conservative estimate of the total proceeds he obtained from the drug-trafficking conspiracy.
On March 8, 2022, Fithen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and one count of aiding and abetting the attempted possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.
Fithen acquired kilogram-level quantities of methamphetamine from Mexico and supplied co-defendants Patrick A. Dodson, also known as “Julio,” 42, of West Plains, and Samuel L. Pyatt, also known as “Tippy,” 47, of Pomona, Mo. Dodson and Pyatt then distributed methamphetamine to others during the three-year-long conspiracy that lasted from Feb. 28, 2017, to Feb. 28, 2020.
Fithen was arrested on Feb. 28, 2020, when he was intercepted by law enforcement in Arkansas on his return trip from buying methamphetamine in Texas. Officers found 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in the back seat of the vehicle where Fithen was riding.
During the investigation, law enforcement officers seized more than 4.5 kilograms of methamphetamine from conspirators who were supplied by Fithen. The Fithen drug-trafficking organization was selling 10 to 20 kilograms of methamphetamine per month, at a profit of approximately $100,000 per month.
According to court documents, Fithen put out a hit on co-defendant Christopher L. Dusenbury, 32, of Bowling Green, Mo., because Dusenbury stole seven pounds of methamphetamine from him.
Court documents report the impact such a large-scale drug-trafficking organization had on the small rural community in southern Missouri. The U.S. Census reported the population of West Plains was 11,986 in 2010. According to court documents, the amount of methamphetamine distributed by this drug-trafficking organization in one month alone was enough to supply four doses (0.25 grams) of methamphetamine to every man, woman, and child in the community.
In 2016, law enforcement officers in Howell County, Mo., reported 244 known violent and property crime offenses to the FBI. By 2020, that number had nearly doubled to 471.
Fithen is the twelfth defendant to be sentenced in this case. Dodson was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison without parole. Pyatt was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole. Dusenbury was sentenced to 11 years and three months in federal prison without parole.
Megan L. Neal, also known as “Squirrel,” 39, of West Plains, was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison without parole. Bradley J. Russell, 58, of West Plains, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison without parole. Bolinda J. Gleghorn, 60, of West Plains, was sentenced to nine years in federal prison without parole. Kevin L. Moss, 49, of West Plains, was sentenced to eight years and four months in federal prison without parole. Barbra L. Newton, 44, of West Plains, was sentenced to six years in federal prison without parole. Brady T. Smith, 27, of West Plains, was sentenced to six years in federal prison without parole. Austin L. Velarde, 27, of West Plains, was sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole. Leslie O. Collins, 48, of West Plains, was sentenced to four years in federal prison without parole.
Chelsea B. Cloven, 30, of West Plains, the final defendant remaining to be sentenced, pleaded guilty on July 5, 2022, and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 12, 2023.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica R. Eatmon. It was investigated by the South Central Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Howell, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the West Plains, Mo., Police Department, the Arkansas State Police, the Fulton County, Ark., Sheriff’s Department, and the Arkansas 16th Judicial Drug Task Force.
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