In June, U.S. Attorney Tom Beall announced a 35-count indictment that accused a pizza shop owner in Topeka of drug distribution. The shop owner, along with nine co-defendants, used the shop as a front for methamphetamine distribution, the indictment outlined.
Adolfo Barragan-Rodriguez, owner of Pronto Pizza in Topeka, Kansas, used the restaurant as a base of operations. From within the Pronto Pizza, Barragan-Rodriguez a.k.a “Big Mike” organized an operation that trafficked methamphetamine from California to Topeka. Once it hit Topeka, his co-defendants distributed it through a “network of street dealers.”
Known as Big Mike to the nine co-defendants, Barragan-Rodriguez set up a trafficking connection between California and the conspirators. He used FedEx as a method of interstate transportation, the indictment alleged. Law enforcement found that he ordered pounds of methamphetamine in a single order. In one example given, officers seized a package that contained four pounds of methamphetamine.
Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal
The nine co-defendants: Michelle Belair; Jose Medina-Benuto; Michael Price; Joseph Jones; Linda Hardin; Heather Hurley; Daniel A. Rice; Nicholas Casarona; and Jose Ruiz, all of Topeka, Kansas.
The indictment explained that law enforcement watched packages for since period of time. They located and identified several stash houses throughout Topeka. Barragan-Rodriguez and one of the co-defendants, Jose Medina-Benuto, stored methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a local private elementary school for students pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Topeka locals mentioned that one of the storage locations was likely within 1,000 feet of a high school as well, although this was not mentioned in the indictment.
The majority of the group faces money laundering charges, in addition to a vast array of various drug trafficking charges. According to the indictment, individuals used a local casino—Prairie Band Pottawattamie Casino—to launder the money. The owner of the casino, after the group’s arrest, made a statement that the casino took money laundering very seriously and were working with authorities.
Charges in the indictment: conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute, interstate trafficking, use of a communications device for drug trafficking, possession with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of school property, money laundering, and illegal firearm possession.
One of the co-defendants, Daniel Rice, is accused of “being a person who unlawfully uses and is addicted to methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance, knowingly and intentionally possessed firearms.” Rice owned 92 firearms.
The group was ordered to forfeit $275,000, “which the amount represents the proceeds derived from the commission of Count one of the Indictment.” Count one accused the 10 defendants of selling more than 4.5 kilograms of methamphetamine. Additionally, they must forfeit the $14,000 in cash found in one of the raids; a 2002 Dodge Ram 1500; a 2005 Cadillac Deville; a 2006 Lexus; a 2004 Acura Sedan; three Topeka properties; and every weapon in the indictment.