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Arrests made in drug trafficking scheme

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

Two arrests and additional charges to current inmates were made in conjunction with a drug trafficking investigation inside the Grant County Jail.

The Grant County Sheriff’s Department initiated an investigation in late February, after the department received a tip that an officer was delivering drugs inside the jail. On March 8, Civilian Jail Officer Christopher John Michael Black was arrested after being observed retrieving a package that contained a bag holding a controlled substance, according to a report from Sheriff Reggie Nevels.

After further surveillance, he was charged with conspiracy to traffic with an inmate, a level 5 felony, and conspiracy to deal in methamphetamine over 10 grams, a level 2 felony. He was held on a $200,000 bond.

The ongoing investigation into cooperatives in the trafficking led to the arrest of Melina Church, 25, of Gas City, and Shandessa Simmons, 25, of Marion. The two were charged with dealing methamphetamine of at least 10 grams, resulting in a $50,005 bond for both women.

Cap. Todd Fleece said the investigation revealed that inmates James Fetz, 32, of Gas City, and James Courtney, 39, of Swayzee, were cooperating with Black to retrieve the methamphetamine from Church and Simmons.

Fetz, who was already serving time at Grant County Jail for driving while suspended and a warrant for failure to appear, was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver.

Likewise, Courtney was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver. He was already serving time for theft, two counts of fugitive from justice, unlawful possession of a syringe, possession of marijuana, and false informing. Both Fetz and Courtney are in Grant County Jail on $50,005 bonds.

An unknown third party providing the methamphetamine is still reportedly unknown to authorities, but Fleece said they expect to make an arrest soon.

While Fleece said contraband in jails is a problem everywhere, the Grant County Jail has taken steps to ensure this situation cannot be duplicated.

A body scanner was purchased shortly after the investigation into the drug trafficking scheme began. Not unlike those used in airports, the body scanner is able to locate substances on the person entering the facility. Since the purchase, Fleece said the scanner has already prevented contraband from entering the jail.

On arresting those involved with Black in trafficking drugs to the jail, Fleece said celebrating the victory is a “double-edged sword.”

“While we don’t want to put more people in jail, it sends the message that there are consequences for your actions and we will put you in jail for drug-related crime,” he said.

Fleece indicated that the amount discovered created a possibility for personal injury, and said the Sheriff’s Department is relieved that no inmates was injured while the substances were present in the jail.