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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Missouri
Teresa A. Moore, United States Attorney
Contact: Don Ledford
For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 10, 2022

Law Enforcement Operation Results in 25 Arrests for Drug-Trafficking Conspiracy, Illegal Firearms

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An investigation into an armed and violent drug-trafficking organization led to the arrests of 25 Kansas City, Missouri, area residents this week in an operation that involved more than 200 law enforcement officers from multiple local and federal agencies.

“This operation removed a large number of armed and dangerous drug dealers from the streets of our community,” said U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore. “After a nearly year-long investigation, our law enforcement partners worked together to take down a significant drug-trafficking organization and reduce the threat of violent crime in our neighborhoods.”

The operation resulted in 21 arrests on Wednesday, March 9, and four arrests on Tuesday, March 8. Officers seized 27 firearms, 1,877 rounds of ammunition, more than 11.1 kilograms of marijuana, 300.9 grams of cocaine, 278.91 grams of other illegal drugs, and $34,439 in cash. Additional seizures are still in the process of being logged into evidence.

More than 200 law enforcement officers were involved in the operation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the Independence, Mo., Police Department.  

“This operation sends a very clear message to those using firearms in crime, selling narcotics and terrorizing our neighborhoods,” said Frederic Winston, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Kansas City Field Division. “Law enforcement is working together at every level, to hold you accountable for the crimes you commit and the havoc you have brought to our community.”

“We know that violence and drug trafficking go hand in hand,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Miles Aley, supervisor of DEA operations in Western Missouri. “Working with our federal and local partners in operations like the one yesterday, DEA is one step closer toward reversing the devastating trends of overdoses and drug-related violence threatening Kansas City.”

Kevin C. Cokes, also known as “Big K” and “Uncle,” 60, Mercedez M. Gardner, also known as “Twin,” 36, November D. Gardner, also known as “October” and “Nuttie,” 23, Idella Gardner, also known as “Lupi,” 34, Delmar L. Hatcher, 51, Nathaniel B. Chapple, 24, Treandre R. Walker, 24, Hazel M. Berymon, 64, Carlton L. Burns, also known as “Pooder,” 24, Christopher J. Hicks-Berry, 35, Kyeir C. Theus, 35, Tony L. Davis, 52, Michael R. Parks, 62, Brian T. Boxly, 45, Parris J. Walker, 27, Jachobette J. Gardner, 42, Reginald L. Mitchem, 42, Eliot E. Cox, 32, Martell C. Cratch, 30, Anthony D. Stuckey, 66, Matthew Rogers, 59, Gloria Hutchinson, 37, Eddie L. Nicholson, Jr., also known as “Junior,” 54, Toneisha R. Blackmon, 29, and Shania N. Bailey, 23, all of Kansas City, Mo., and Deone D. Gardner, also known as “Twin,” 28, of Belton, Mo., were charged in an 86-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on March 1, 2022.

The federal indictment alleges that all 26 defendants have participated in a conspiracy since Jan. 28, 2019, to distribute crack cocaine, fentanyl, cocaine, and marijuana in Jackson County. That indictment was unsealed and made public yesterday following the arrests of most of the defendants.

According to court documents, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began investigating an armed drug trafficking organization operating primarily in east Kansas City, Mo., in April 2021. Members are known to sell marijuana, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, purported ecstasy pills, purported Percocet pills (believed to be counterfeit pills made with fentanyl), purported OxyContin pills, carry firearms, and commit acts of violence.

In a motion seeking his detention in federal custody without bond, the government alleges that Cokes is the main supplier for the organization. The motion cites several instances in which various defendants have been stopped by law enforcement officers, while they were in possession of illegal drugs and firearms. In some instances, defendants attempted to flee from officers.

Among the incidents cited in the government’s detention motion are shootings that occurred at 208 Westport Road in Kansas City, Mo., on April 17, 2021, and in the area of 24th Street and Van Brunt in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 26, 2019. Three victims were wounded in the early afternoon shooting at Westport, and witnesses described two shooters with AK-style weapons. Numerous shots were fired at the 24th Street shooting but no injuries were reported. A Nissan Pathfinder rental vehicle, which was parked at that location, was struck by gunfire.

In addition to the conspiracy, various defendants are charged in 16 drug-trafficking counts and 57 counts of illegally using a telephone to facilitate the conspiracy.

November Gardner and Deone Gardner were also charged together in one count of possessing firearms in furtherance of drug-trafficking crimes.

November Gardner was also charged in two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and two counts of being a user of a controlled substance in possession of firearms.

Cokes and Walker were also charged together in one count of conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

Deone Gardner and Theus were also charged in separate counts with being felons in possession of firearms.

November Gardner and Hicks-Berry were charged in one count of aiding and abetting each other in the destruction of a motor vehicle with the intent to endanger the safety of another person and with reckless disregard for the safety of human life. The indictment alleges they destroyed a parked Nissan Pathfinder rental vehicle on Nov. 26, 2021. They are also charged with one count of aiding and abetting each other to use a firearm in relation to that crime.

November Gardner and Burns are also charged together in one count of conspiracy to commit robbery.

Additional Defendants

Two additional defendants were arrested as part of the investigation, but charged separately in federal indictments that also were unsealed yesterday.

John E. Johnson, 29, of Kansas City, Mo., was charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. John Johnson allegedly was in possession of a Smith and Wesson .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun on Feb. 8, 2022.

Arron L. Hall, 42, of Kansas City, Mo., was charged with three counts of distributing methamphetamine and marijuana from May 5 to June 10, 2021.

The charges contained in these indictments are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, who Eddie L. Nicholson, Jr., also known as “Junior,” 54, se duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron H. Black and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie C. Bradshaw. They were investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Independence, Mo., Police Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Johnson County, Kan., Sheriff’s Department and the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department.

KC Metro Strike Force

This prosecution was brought as a part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Co-located Strike Forces Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations against a continuum of priority targets and their affiliate illicit financial networks. These prosecutor-led co-located Strike Forces capitalize on the synergy created through the long-term relationships that can be forged by agents, analysts, and prosecutors who remain together over time, and they epitomize the model that has proven most effective in combating organized crime. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations, transnational criminal organizations, and money laundering organizations that present a significant threat to the public safety, economic, or national security of the United States.

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