Suspected Drug Dealers Taken Off Streets

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In a joint operation with assistance from the Gila County Sheriff's Office, Payson police officers served arrest warrants on suspected local drug dealers Wednesday.

Four teams of officers, including the Payson Police Department's Special Response Team, began the sweep in the afternoon and worked well into the night, rounding up people suspected of trafficking in methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as controlled substances like hydrocodone.

As of Thursday afternoon, Police Chief Gordon Gartner said officers had arrested 16 people.

"A couple of the people are in the Valley so they will take a little while to round up," Gartner said. "We are still working on a few others here in town."

Three search warrants were served on residences in Rye, Payson and Star Valley.

"We didn't find a whole lot of product -- some drug paraphernalia," Gartner said. "We had Child Protective Services take a 2-year-old child (from one of the search warrant locations) because the house was a filthy mess inside."

Wednesday's operation was the culmination of a five-month undercover operation conducted by the Payson Police Department's Methamphetamine Enforcement Program (MEP). The program is funded in part by grants from the Criminal Justice Enhancement Fund and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

"This operation concludes the second phase of the MEP (program)," Gartner said. "Phase one began in February of 2002 and was a concentrated effort on serving search warrants on local drug houses."

In that phase, officers served 65 search warrants, seizing six clandestine meth labs, Gartner said.

Last month, the Gila County Narcotics Task Force served 16 arrest warrants on suspected dealers in Operation Payson Street Sweeper. All but five are now in custody.

Gartner said Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores has been instrumental in these efforts to get drug dealers off the streets.

"She looked at every case and reviewed every report," Gartner said.

"It's an organized effort between everyone," Flores said.

Flores said this type of operation has to be carefully planned because everything goes down on one day so the people targeted don't get a heads up.

"We file the complaints that day, then (officers) get the warrants that day and go out and grab them that day," Flores said. "That way, nobody knows anything."

The county attorney has 10 days to present all the cases to a grand jury and get formal indictments.

Flores said all the work is worth it.

"We have a problem here in our county and its affecting everybody," Flores said. "The more we can do to get the people who are selling (drugs) off the street, the more likely we are going to help everyone."

Persons arrested on Sept. 15

Tobias Zertuche, 34 -- three counts of possession of marijuana for sale, one count of dangerous drugs for sale.

Ashley Robiakek, 18 -- three counts of possession of marijuana for sale, one count of dangerous drugs for sale.

Cynthia Namuth, 34 -- possession of dangerous drugs for sale.

Daniel Bartlett, 46 -- possession of dangerous drugs for sale, possession of drug paraphernalia.

Jill Labrie, 43 -- possession of drug paraphernalia, use of marijuana.

Jeanette Herring, 40 -- possession of dangerous drugs for sale.

Harvey James, 41 -- possession of dangerous drugs for sale.

Nathaniel Myers, 18 -- four counts of possession of dangerous drugs for sale.

Christopher M. Smith, 28 -- possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of dangerous drugs for sale.

Amanda Stidham, 19 -- possession of drug paraphernalia

Courtney Lee, 26 -- possession of marijuana, three counts of possession of dangerous drugs for sale, use of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia.

Larry Recard, 50 -- four counts of possession of dangerous drugs for sale.

Peter Hillgren, 29 -- possession of dangerous drugs for sale.

Phillipe McCurdy, 39 -- two counts of possession of dangerous drugs for sale, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana.

Deborah McCurdy, 44 -- possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia.

Jeremy Weiler, 24 -- possession of dangerous drugs for sale.

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