A joint four-month investigation by state and Custer County law enforcement officials has led to charges against 13 people in connection with a drug ring in the county.

The investigation by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and the Custer County Sheriff's Office, which started in October 2010, targeted the illegal distribution of prescription narcotics and methamphetamine in Custer County, according to Matt Brown, Custer County deputy state's attorney.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Pharm School, resulted in 13 suspects facing charges that carry a maximum sentence of 300 years in prison, according to Brown.

For a number of years, law enforcement suspected that such a ring existed in Custer, but the insular nature of the group made infiltrating it a challenge, Brown said.

"It was very difficult to break into that circle," he said. "Once we did, the dominoes started to fall, and we were able to pretty much sweep people involved in this type activity in Custer."

Those arrested or served with warrants on Thursday were:

  • James A. Fisher, 45, felony distribution of a controlled substance;
  • Mary E. Stibernick, 51, two counts felony distribution of a controlled substance;
  • Carel D. Ashlock, 32, three counts felony distribution of a controlled substance; three counts felony distribution of a controlled substance in a school zone;
  • Sarah E. Ashlock, 27, three counts felony distribution of a controlled substance; three counts felony distribution of a controlled substance in a school zone;
  • Joseph D. Harris, 26, two counts felony distribution of a controlled substance;
  • Raymond G. Hilston, 52, two counts felony distribution of a controlled substance;
  • Hiram F. Mahoney, 74, two counts felony distribution of a controlled substance;
  • Cody J. Brown, 19, two counts felony distribution of a controlled substance; felony distribution of a controlled substance in a school zone;
  • Jeremy J. Goodro, 21, felony possession of a controlled substance.
  • Cody J. Brown and Goodro, along with a juvenile were already in custody. Matt Brown said Cody J. Brown, the juvenile and Stephen A. Klimek had been arrested on Jan. 11.

Klimek, 31, has been charged with felony possession of a controlled substance; felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute in a school zone, felony keeping a place; probation violation for previous charge of felony possession of a controlled substance. Cody J. Brown also faces two counts felony possession of a controlled substance from that earlier arrest.

Goodro was already in custody from an arrest made on Feb. 1 in connection with the investigation.

"We think this should be a serious damper on drug distribution in Custer hopefully for the foreseeable future," Matt Brown said.

Law enforcement officials said two others have been charged but are still being sought by police:

  • Krystyn L. Nagy, 23, two counts felony distribution of a controlled substance;
  • Chris G. Carr, 24, two counts felony distribution of a controlled substance; felony distribution of a controlled substance in a school zone;

Special Agent Lyle Tolsma of DCI spearheaded the investigation. Agents from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Custer County Sheriff's Department and state Division of Criminal Investigation helped make the arrests on Thursday.

The individuals arrested Thursday are expected to make court appearances next week, Matt Brown said.

Contact Holly Meyer at 394-8421 or holly.meyer@rapidcityjournal.com.

(21) comments

BushLeague
BushLeague

jkcargus said on: February 9, 2011, 6:50 pm
Is it true that a bar tender can get fined or in legal trouble if they serve someone and then that person gets in to a car accident? I would really like to know the answer to that because if they can get in trouble for that can a doctor get in trouble for writing to many pain perscriptions to the same person or giving them sample of a pain medication? And that person gets in trouble for dealing drugs?
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Yes a doctor can get in trouble for writing too many prescriptions to too many people, just like a bartender can get in trouble for continuing to serve a person who is beyond intoxicated. But, just like it is hard to prove that a bartender knew someone was going to drink and drive, it is hard to prove that a doctor knew the pills were going to be abused and distributed. I have known people who were addicted to prescription pain pills and it destroys their ability to think rationally and make well thought out decisions. All they care about is the next fix, because once you are addicted the withdrawls from opiods are torturtous. I have seen normal, intelligent people who had everything going for them throw it all away because of these drugs so I understand the sentiment of "they are still people" argument. All it takes is a couple bad choices and you could be facing ten years in the state pennitentary....sad.

hydrocarbon29
hydrocarbon29

[quote]Kumbaya said: "hydro-unfortunately, with a free market as you describe, the methhead, would want/need medical care which we would have to pay for, food stamps etc. the only way to truly be free is if we didn't provide any welfare to anyone. can't afford food....starve. can't afford hospital care, ...die in the emergency room. then, and only then would it be a true FREE market. "[/quote]

I think there is a big misunderstanding as to what a truly free market and a voluntary society entail. The first mistake that is made is assuming that we ever had or even currently have a free market. We have crony capitalism and state monopoly capitalism in which the winners and losers in the marketplace are chosen by people with political connections. A free market cannot embody any form of welfare be it social or corporate. To put it plainly you have no rights at the expense of other people. That in itself is a great incentive not to use methamphetamine. It is a known psychological and physical risk along with a massive barrier to employment. Knowing that you will have no social safety net provided by force to protect you from its harm is a great incentive not to use it. I won't deny anyone the right to do whatever they want to do with their own time, money, resources and body. It's not my responsibility to pay for their mistakes though.
A truly free market doesn't require people starve, suffer and die either. Though there has never been a truly free market, historically the freer the market the higher the standard of living and equality is. Once taxation, regulation, and control is put into place you have a massive wealth disparity and a shrinking middle class. The politically connected lobby to control their portion of the market and become rich, the middle class shrinks and becomes dependent on handouts from the state. We've built this highly collectivized/socialized system in which peaceful (though not socially acceptable) actions are criminalized because we're all financially tied to the mistakes of others. It's shameful that we're destroying the lives of those arrested in Custer based on collectivistic nonsense when they really haven't done anything that wasn't voluntary to those around them. No one has yet told me how they have physically harmed them or their property.

jkcargus
jkcargus

Is it true that a bar tender can get fined or in legal trouble if they serve someone and then that person gets in to a car accident? I would really like to know the answer to that because if they can get in trouble for that can a doctor get in trouble for writing to many pain perscriptions to the same person or giving them sample of a pain medication? And that person gets in trouble for dealing drugs?

miawmd
miawmd

To Kumbaya You seemed to leave out the fact that if we imprison these people we have to feed, cloth, house, and take care of their medical needs at about 40 thousand a year per person.
Freedom does have its problems, but so does a police state. I would prefer to live in a nation that allows freedom for adults as long as their actions do not harm others, or others people’s right to be free as well. It is not ironic that we allow adults to smoke around children at home but not around adults in a bar. What does this tell you about the people that run this state? We do not live in a free country or state and never will as long as the majority makes laws stemming from these prejudicial and religious beliefs.

Kumbaya
Kumbaya

hydro-unfortunately, with a free market as you describe, the methhead, would want/need medical care which we would have to pay for, food stamps etc. the only way to truly be free is if we didn't provide any welfare to anyone. can't afford food....starve. can't afford hospital care, ...die in the emergency room. then, and only then would it be a true FREE market.

Drugfree
Drugfree

I am a mother and also very against drug use and people selling drugs. These drugs are trash, and the people selling them are disrespectful, and do not care. The reason I say this is because they sell to anybody no matter age, gender, race. I do believe they are below me, and I am glad they are off the streets. Are kids have more of a chance now for us to teach them. Woo Hoo!!!!!!!!!!!

xjess
xjess

jkcargus said on: February 7, 2011, 9:42 pm

"I agree that the drugs need to be off the street that is what I consider the trash. If you are talking about the people,you have no idea what kind of backround some of these younger people had. Or what happened in their lives to push them to treat themselves this way. Don't make snap judgement on people that you have no idea who they are. Sounds like you have children. You can raise them with respect and good morals. Know that life can change in a blink of an eye. So don't think just because people are good people love their children with all their heart and attend church and sunday school and talk to them about how bad drugs and alcohol are that these children are going to be perfect or always make good choices. That is not true so please do not be so quick to judge. They are all someones children and no one ever thinks that this will happen, just know it can."
It sure can. It doesn't just happen to people who grew up in a tough neighborhood or with parents who weren't there. It happens to people that you'd never expect.
Just because people make a bad decision doesn't make them bad people.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a drug advocate in the least. I just know that because people have a drug problem does not necessarily make them bad people.

jkcargus
jkcargus

[quote]savethechildren said: "This is great. thank you for getting more trash off the street. On behalf of the children thank you."[/quote]

I agree that the drugs need to be off the street that is what I consider the trash. If you are talking about the people,you have no idea what kind of backround some of these younger people had. Or what happened in their lives to push them to treat themselves this way. Don't make snap judgement on people that you have no idea who they are. Sounds like you have children. You can raise them with respect and good morals. Know that life can change in a blink of an eye. So don't think just because people are good people love their children with all their heart and attend church and sunday school and talk to them about how bad drugs and alcohol are that these children are going to be perfect or always make good choices. That is not true so please do not be so quick to judge. They are all someones children and no one ever thinks that this will happen, just know it can.

hydrocarbon29
hydrocarbon29

[quote]Think it through said: "To Hydrocarbon29: Really? They simply provided a product or service that another person was willing to purchase. What they simply did was break the law and do things that would greatly degrade a small community. I live in Custer and the fewer people dealing and doing drugs, the better.... And, if you're part of this ring, I hope you are the next one arrested because we are all affected by criminal activity in one way or another. So take your tye died shirts, liberal agenda and your VW van and drive yourself back to California. "[/quote]

I don't think you understand my position. First off I'm the least liberal of any of the people posting on this thread (unless you were referring to classical liberalism which clearly you are not). I'm promoting the ideas of a truly free market and a society which does not rely on political force to solve its complex problems. As a proponent of true free market capitalism I don't feel as if any markets should be regulated from the downtown grocer to prostitution or drug markets. People should be free to do what they wish with their own time, money, resources and even their own bodies. Anything less means that another person or group of people has a higher claim on their life and property than they do. This freedom is limited only when your freedom infringes on the freedoms of others. I still haven't had anyone tell me how those arrested have physically harmed them or their property. I will agree that methamphetamine use is not a wise life choice, however, it is not my place to make or enforce the life choices of others. I feel that religion is just as dangerous of a life choice and it's not my place to stop them from believing that either. The only time people are morally justified to use force against others is when it's retaliatory or defensive. No one yet has shown me how these arrests fit into that category because nobody's person or property was harmed. Try turning off the cable news sometime to escape the fear mongering thrown around by the pundits. The world will seem a lot less of a scary place and we can start handling social problems in a rational way rather than by destroying lives.

Think it through
Think it through

To Hydrocarbon29: Really? They simply provided a product or service that another person was willing to purchase. What they simply did was break the law and do things that would greatly degrade a small community. I live in Custer and the fewer people dealing and doing drugs, the better.... And, if you're part of this ring, I hope you are the next one arrested because we are all affected by criminal activity in one way or another. So take your tye died shirts, liberal agenda and your VW van and drive yourself back to California.

HappyHolly
HappyHolly

Its about time they start busting them in Custer. Im certain there will be more arrests to follow. This town is full of druggies, get em!!

Sack Lunch
Sack Lunch

I don't see vengefulness at all Hydrocarbon29. I see some frustration, and a genuine happiness that those who break the law are having to answer for their crimes. It appears from the article that some individuals were (allegedly)selling drugs in school zones, which is an added no-no. Voluntary transactions or not, selling prescription narcotics (unless you are working out of a pharmacy) and meth (under all situations), is illegal.
I live in Custer County and have seen first hand the damage those who are addicted to methamphetamine and prescription narcotics have done. Furthermore, it sounds like the individuals involved in this story were not "just users" but were actively selling drugs. Law enforcement should be going after those who sell drugs, and not just focus on the addicts. It appears they do have a pretty good start in Custer. Keep up the good work in Custer County.

hydrocarbon29
hydrocarbon29

Have any of the people here making the wrathful comments towards the people arrested been negatively affected by them? By "affected" I mean sustained injury to yourself or to your property based upon their actions. If not I really can't understand the amount of vengefulness that you all express. Manufacturing and selling their product to users didn't involve any coercion at all. They simply provided a product or service that another person was willing to purchase. Yet you treat people making voluntary exchanges with such hatred. If they had harmed you or your property I might understand, but I see no evidence of any of that from this story. In essence all you're doing is cheering on the absolute destruction of their lives and freedoms. It's a simple-minded and destructive way to interact with your fellow humans. It's time we started thinking objectively rather than like a herd taking orders from politicians on TV.

Obamination
Obamination

I am positive that more arrests will be coming soon. And the sooner the better.

shooter5074
shooter5074

Score 1 for the good guys.

Golly Gee
Golly Gee

Is there anyone left in town?

Rush Mountmore
Rush Mountmore

About time.

greensleeves
greensleeves

Thank God they have put a bit of a damper on the drug problem in Custer. I just hope they don't end the investigation with these arrests. I would bed there are even more involved in this mess.

savethechildren
savethechildren

This is great. thank you for getting more trash off the street. On behalf of the children thank you.

TT101TT
TT101TT

The bad part is you could go to nearly every town in SD and get the same percentage of the population.

Revelation
Revelation

That's quite a bit of Custer's population base. They have less than 2,000 people and there are more than 20 arrested.

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