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‘Operation Snowplow’ yields guilty plea in federal court
Second suspect prepared to change plea
operation snowplow items file photo
Barton County Sheriff’s Officers go through items confiscated during “Operation Snowplow” in this file photo provided by BSCO after the Oct. 1, 2018, drug raid.

A Great Bend man arrested last October in Barton County drug sting “Operation Snowplow” entered a plea of guilty to amended charges earlier this month in U.S. District Court as part of a plea agreement.

Iban Martinez-Enriquez agreed to plead guilty to possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and to using said firearm during and in relation to a drug-trafficking crime. He entered his plea on Aug. 9 before District Judge Eric F. Melgren.

His sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 in Wichita Courtroom 408. Although the court is not bound by the plea agreement, the U.S. Attorney recommends a total effective sentence of 10 years — five years on each count to run consecutively. The defendant agreed to forfeit a Smith & Wesson .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle, an Apple iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy and $21,915 in currency.

Another defendant in the case, Kennedy Christine Beakey, notified the court on Aug. 15 that she intends to change her plea. A hearing is set for 3 p.m. on Sept. 6 in Wichita Courtroom 408, also before Judge Melgren.

Other defendants in the case were prosecuted in Barton County District Court.

Operation Snowplow

The Barton County Sheriff’s Office reported breaking a “major drug ring” with the execution of nine search warrants in the early hours of Oct. 1, 2018. Sheriff Brian Bellendir announced the ongoing investigation involving multiple law enforcement agencies was dubbed “Operation Snowplow.”

Suspected heroin, LSD, cocaine and meth were among the substances seized. It was estimated that the drugs had a street value of $500,000.

“This operation is the culmination of several months of investigative work conducted by Sheriff’s Office detectives,” Bellendir said at the time. The BCSO, along with several other agencies, executed search warrants at the following locations in Great Bend: 2019 Elm St., 704 Odell St., 5808 16th St. Tr. Apt. 5C, 401 Firethorn St., 2528 8th St. and 162 NE 20 Ave. The remaining three search warrants were for motor vehicles which were located and searched.

“The investigation began as a cocaine distribution case. Detectives had used undercover techniques to purchase illicit drugs. The case mushroomed drastically into a major distribution case involving all types of drugs,” according to Bellendir’s statement last October. 

Of particular concern was the fact the detectives came into possession of tablets that contained fentanyl that had been manufactured to look like 5 mg hydrocodone prescription drugs. Also, during the course of the investigation detectives obtained quantities of black tar heroin.

Investigation indicated a very strong likelihood most of these drugs originated in Mexico and were smuggled into the United States. Evidence of money order and wire transfers of money to Mexico were also discovered by law enforcement.

Substantial quantities of illicit drugs were seized during the operation. Deputies in the initial stages of weighing and processing the evidence reported the following suspected drugs and amounts: 200 doses of LSD, 10 kilos of high-grade marijuana, 1.5 kilos of marijuana wax, 2 ounces of black tar heroin, 160 fluid ounces of liquid codeine, 1 kilo of methamphetamine, 2 kilos china white heroin, 8 ounces of cocaine and 6 ounces of fentanyl.

Along with the drugs sheriff’s deputies seized one rifle and two shotguns. One of these shotguns had been sawed off to approximately 12 inches, Bellendir said. Multiple rounds of buckshot were found with the gun.

“The Sheriff’s Office also seized more than $25,000 cash and three vehicles,” Bellendir stated, adding he anticipated that asset forfeiture proceedings would be filed.

The suspects were initially booked into the Barton County Jail on the following charges:

- Iban Martinez–Enrique, for distribution of methamphetamine, distribution of cocaine, distribution of marijuana, distribution of heroin, possession of paraphernalia, criminal use of a weapon, and no drug tax stamp;

- Miguel Gonzalez, for possession of cocaine, possession of paraphernalia, and criminal use of a firearm; 

- Candice Johnson, for distribution of methamphetamine and possession of paraphernalia;

- Kennedy Beakey, for distribution of a hallucinogenic and possession of paraphernalia; 

- Pedro Garcia, for possession of a stimulant, and possession of paraphernalia. 

- Vincente Espino, for distribution of methamphetamine, distribution of cocaine, distribution of heroin, distribution of fentanyl, distribution of LSD and distribution of marijuana. 

- Murel Dean Amador, for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

Editor’s note: The results of these cases in Barton County District Court will be the subject of another story in an upcoming edition of the Great Bend Tribune.