SWET busts suspected meth distribution network in Hastings
Eight suspects will face multiple counts for delivery of crystal methamphetamine in Hastings, after a monthslong investigation broke up an alleged distribution organization in the city.
The Southwest Enforcement Team, made up of officers from law enforcement agencies across southwestern Michigan and the Michigan State Police, worked with the Hastings City Police Department to investigate the operation.
“Without the collaboration of the Hastings Police Department, this investigation would not have been successful,” SWET Detective Lieutenant Phillip McNabnay said in a press release Wednesday.
“I think once people start to realize we're not blind to what's going on, it will be a deterrent to use this drug as much as they have been recently,” Hastings City Police Chief Jeff Pratt told The Hastings Banner Wednesday. “Word spreads quickly.”
Pratt added that the investigation also shows law enforcement has been successful in its fight against heroin, because many people who were using heroin have gone back to meth.
“There's always going to be a drug of choice,” Pratt said.
“Southwest Michigan has seen an alarming increase in the availability of crystal methamphetamine that has been trafficked into our area in the last two years,” McNabnay said. “The increased availability and the low cost of the product has presented a challenge for law enforcement throughout Southwest Michigan.”
While meth became tougher to make once laws were passed to track and limit the sale of cold medications containing meth ingredients ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, Pratt said, it is being brought into Barry County from larger cities like Kalamazoo or Battle Creek.
Preventing the spread of meth in the area has been a primary focus of SWET-North, a newly formed team dedicated to Allegan and Barry counties, McNabnay said.
“I think we have a great working relationship with SWET,” Pratt said. “Someday I hope that we can have an officer or two involved in their team.”
As of Wednesday seven of the eight suspects had been arrested and lodged in the Barry County Jail.
The following defendants were arraigned Thursday, Aug. 8:
Kevin Duiane Abbott, 51, of Hastings, faces three counts of delivery of the controlled substance methamphetamine as a habitual offender. The alleged activity occurred between April 26 and May 7, police say.
Court records show that Abbott has a variety of prior convictions, including delivery of a controlled substance to a minor and accosting a minor for immoral purposes on April 22, 2010; fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct on Oct. 6, 2015, as well as failing to comply with reporting requirements.
If convicted on the meth charges, his habitual offender status could result in a maximum sentence of life in prison.
During Abbott's arraignment Thursday before Magistrate Frank Hillary, bond was set at $75,000.
Tina Marie Noble, 42, of Hastings, is charged with two counts of delivery of meth between March 20 and March 24. She has prior convictions for meth possession on Sept. 26, 2012, and Feb. 4, 2015. Bond was set at $25,000.
Michelle Marie O'Toole, 38, of Nashville, is charged with one count of delivering meth on June 3. She is a habitual offender. Court records show that she was convicted of being an accessory to a crime in Eaton County on Oct. 2, 2004. Bond was set at 10 percent of $10,000.
Gary Robert Willavize, 37, of Hastings, is charged with one count of delivering meth, his second offense. He was convicted of operating and/or maintaining a meth laboratory on or about April 17, 2013. He also was convicted of possessing a controlled substance, marijuana, on May 10, 2016. His bond was set at 10 percent of $20,000.
Timothy William Stube, 42, of Sunfield, a second-time offender, is charged with three counts of delivering meth between April 16 and April 23 in Hastings. He was previously convicted of possession of marijuana on Dec. 7, 2000. His bond was set at $5,000.
Marc West Wright, 45, of Hastings, is facing two counts of delivery of meth between May 21 and May 23. His record shows five prior controlled substance convictions: for possession of marijuana on June 17, 1998, Feb. 9, 2011, July 3, 2012, June 4, 2013, and use of marijuana on Aug. 1, 2006. His bond was set at $5,000.
Police reported that a seventh suspect, Nicholas James McClelland, 29, was arraigned in Barry County Court on Wednesday. He is facing one count of delivering methamphetamine.
An eighth suspect has yet to be arrested and arraigned, they said.