An officer's hunch during a traffic stop in Rapid City kicked off a daylong investigation that led to four arrests and the unraveling of a major local drug-trafficking and money-counterfeiting operation.
The investigation began with the search of a vehicle pulled over about 2 a.m. Monday and ended with the searches of two homes, a motel room and a local tattoo parlor. Along the way, officers confiscated $56,000 in cash, more than a dozen guns, counterfeit money and equipment, and an array of illegal drugs including methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana, police said Tuesday.
After traces of cocaine were found in the vehicle, a multi-agency drug task force got involved and the case spiraled in intensity from there, with one search warrant leading to another and then another, police said.
"This is a good score. We’ve got weapons; we’ve got narcotics,” said Capt. James Johns of the Rapid City Police Department. “We uncovered a pretty significant conspiracy operating here in Rapid City.”
Johns credited good police work by the officer who made the traffic stop with pursuing a search that kicked off the wider investigation.
“The officer did some very good investigative work,” Johns said.
By the end of the day, the Unified Narcotics Enforcement Team had seized the cash, 14 rifles and handguns and the drugs.
A counterfeit money lab and counterfeit bills were also discovered during the searches. Charges relating to the counterfeiting operation are pending. The United States Secret Service was notified of the counterfeiting investigation.
The traffic stop occurred about 2 a.m. and the first search warrant was executed in the early morning, Johns said. Searches were conducted at the other sites in the late afternoon, he said.
Warrants were used to search residences at 722 Fifth St. and 2023 Fremont St., Freedom Ink Tattoo at 428 Quincy St. and a motel room at the Big Sky Lodge at 4080 Tower Road.
No arrests were made at Freedom Ink Tattoo, but several items were seized at the business, Johns said. The cash, marijuana and guns were uncovered at the residences and Freedom Ink Tattoo, he said. “Some of the people involved with this frequent Freedom Tattoo,” Johns said.
The guns included semi-automatic rifles, revolvers and semi-automatic handguns.
A husband and wife — Zachary Smith-Cline, 31, and Sara Smith-Cline, 32, both of Rapid City — were arrested along with 36-year-old David Marshall of Rapid City and Whitney Pavich, 25, of Box Elder.
All three face charges of possession of drugs with the intent to distribute. Zachary Smith-Cline and Sara Smith-Cline are being held without bond; Marshall’s bond was set at $10,000.
Pavich was charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and posted a $300 bond.
UNET is a multi-agency drug task force, operated as part of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation. The joint investigation was conducted by the Rapid City Police Department, Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, and South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation. The team’s primary focus is investigating drug-related crimes in Pennington, Fall River, Custer, and Meade counties.