The rise and fall of a father-son drug ring linked to a number of deaths and the Sinaloa Cartel

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As Louisville Metro Police Detective Darrell Hyche stepped towards a white pickup truck to make a visitors cease, a gunman fired bullets into his face and head.

His companion fired again, killing the gunman and one other passenger.

Rattled residents and plenty of officers didn’t know on the time of the Feb. 1, 2018, shootout in Buechel, Kentucky, that the boys contained in the pickup had been linked to a a lot bigger drug trafficking group — one which lured violent gangs from Detroit and ordered thousands and thousands of {dollars} of methamphetamine from Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa Cartel.

Investigators suspect that in 2016-2018 drug ring members additionally had been concerned in not less than 4 deaths in Michigan, Kentucky and Mississippi.

The Courier Journal, a part of the USA TODAY Community, spent weeks interviewing brokers, prosecutors, protection attorneys and native police and sifting means of court docket, police and jail information in 4 states to piece collectively particulars of the felony enterprise and the damaging swath it minimize throughout the U.S. — culminating in arson, a poisonous romance, betrayal and lethal revenge.

The newsroom’s investigation revealed the drug ring’s hyperlinks to the capturing of Detective Hyche, the killing of a 28-year-old mom and a 27-year-old man in Louisville, the homicide of a person in Detroit and the mysterious demise of a lady in a on line casino in Tunica, Mississippi.

The image that developed depicts how Cuban refugee Jose Manuel Prieto Jr., 56, constructed a drug ring in California that stretched from the West Coast northeast to Buffalo, New York, and south to Atlanta earlier than main his son, a U.S. Air Pressure veteran, on a path to jail.

Jose M. Prieto Jr. and Louis M. Prieto.
Jose M. Prieto Jr. and Louis M. Prieto.

Monitoring the meth pipeline into Louisville

For legislation enforcement, the case started a number of years in the past with one key query: Who was behind an inflow of meth into Louisville?

Police officers blamed the violent drug commerce for a jarring spike in homicides and an overdose charge that averaged practically a demise a day.

Louisville narcotics detectives teamed with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and shortly zeroed in on drug trafficker Wiley Greenhill, who moved from Detroit to the Der Metropolis to type a drug ring.

Greenhill, 40, teamed along with his brother, Jamarr Greenhill, 38, to summon gang members from Detroit to capitalize on Louisville’s habit disaster, which handed them a strong buyer base.

Jamarr Greenhill and Wiley Greenhill.
Jamarr Greenhill and Wiley Greenhill.

Greenhill associates later informed investigators they relocated as a result of they heard Louisville was “chill,” which means the drug commerce was much less aggressive so they might set up a foothold, mentioned Shawn Morrow, particular agent answerable for the ATF’s Louisville Subject Division.

Investigators started to see proof of the Detroit hyperlink. When ATF brokers made an undercover purchase from a Greenhill affiliate in Louisville, they traced a stolen .38-caliber Smith & Wesson Particular the Detroit Police Division as soon as issued to considered one of its officers.

This Detroit Police Department-issued handgun ultimately ended up in the hands of a violent drug ring in Louisville.
This Detroit Police Division-issued handgun in the end ended up within the palms of a violent drug ring in Louisville.

Because the case grew extra advanced and widespread, ATF brokers referred to as within the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Louisville.

DEA brokers led the three-year investigation and dubbed it “Operation Triple Crown,” the top of thoroughbred racing, as they labored to trace the pipeline’s origins from Louisville and Detroit again to the father-and-son suppliers in California.

From 2016-18, the Prieto drug ring dominated the meth commerce in Louisville, saturating town with greater than 100 kilograms price thousands and thousands of {dollars}, the lead investigator informed The Courier Journal.

The Prieto ring is also suspected of funneling an identical quantity to Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Buffalo and cities in New Jersey, based on the DEA agent, who The Courier Journal is not naming due to the sensitivity of his work.

But, inside three years, investigators crippled the drug ring and despatched the daddy and son and two dozen of their associates to federal jail. Others are useless or at massive.

A number of paperwork within the case of the Prietos and Greenhills stay sealed and a few individuals linked to the case, together with a veteran protection lawyer and mates of a murder sufferer, declined to be interviewed, citing the volatility of the drug ring.

Nonetheless, the story informed brokers, defendants and prosecutors in interviews or court docket information reveals a lot in regards to the felony enterprise and its lethal operation in Louisville and throughout the nation.

Drug ring members in Louisville somehow had this stolen .38 Smith & Wesson Special issued to a member of the Detroit Police Department.
Drug ring members in Louisville in some way had this stolen .38 Smith & Wesson Particular issued to a member of the Detroit Police Division.

The delivery of a lethal drug ring

As a ba in Cuba, Jose Prieto Jr.’s household tossed into turmoil when Fidel Castro overthrew the federal government in 1959. Those that had been politically linked, together with his grandfather, grew to become targets.

Jose Prieto was 11 when his father hurried their household out of his homeland and into the U.S. as refugees.

As an grownup, Jose Prieto settled within the California city of Apple Valley, identified for its fruit orchards. However brokers say he secretly cultivated a distinct crop — marijuana.

He additionally began a enterprise shopping for and promoting used vehicles. However federal prosecutors contended throughout a bond listening to that he primarily used his auto enterprise to cover his actual earnings from promoting medication.

In Louisville, he grew to become a silent companion for Good Wheels auto restore store on South Seventh Road, southwest of downtown. The proprietor, Alaa Al-Jebori, often known as Alan Hanson, repaired vehicles but in addition used the store as a drug drive-thru.

Al-Jebori pleaded responsible in 2018 to distributing meth and is serving a sentence of seven years and eight months in federal jail, court docket information present.

Alaa Al-Jebori
Alaa Al-Jebori

In California, DEA brokers say Jose Prieto ran up a big playing debt tied to the Sinaloa Cartel as soon as led legendary kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

In 2016, the cartel issued Jose Prieto an ultimatum: Work for them promoting their medication or be killed.

He later claimed the cartel torched his marijuana subject as a warning and to cease him from making quick cash to pay his debt.

Jose Prieto sought out somebody with a powerful enterprise background to assist him earn cash to repay the cartel. He contacted his son, Louis Prieto, although the 2 hadn’t spoken in additional than 15 years due to a dispute.

He pitched it as a possibility.

Collectively, they might make quick money, a whole lot of it.

Louis Prieto did not want the cash. He joined the U.S. Air Pressure and served a tour in Iraq, later volunteering to return rather than a good friend who had a household hardship.

Throughout 4 years of service, he obtained a number of medals and commendations and earned the rank of senior airman.

He obtained an honorable discharge in 2008 and headed to school, incomes a grasp’s diploma in accounting.

Louis Prieto had settled in Los Angeles, a two-hour drive southwest of his father in Apple Valley. He labored for the state of California, auditing native municipalities collaborating in state authorities welfare packages.

He additionally later labored within the non-public sector as an accountant.

He give up his job in 2016 and opted to be a stay-at-home dad to his new child son whereas his spouse, who labored for L’Oreal cosmetics, supported the household.

That is when his estranged father got here knocking. Louis Prieto missed his father and agreed to assist him out of his bind.

Quickly the 2 had been tossing cube collectively at casinos and sharing gourmand meals at upscale eating places. And the cash rolled in.

The cartel routinely despatched massive shipments of meth throughout the border into California and from there, the Prietos coordinated the distribution throughout the nation.

However a sequence of betrayals had been coming, dooming the daddy and son’s joint enterprise.

Constructing the Louisville drug pipeline

The Prietos established the Louisville pipeline in 2016 after one other considered one of Jose Prieto’s sons befriended Wiley Greenhill whereas each had been inmates on the Roederer Correctional Complicated, an Oldham County jail about 23 miles northeast of Louisville.

For Greenhill, a small-time felony from Detroit, the case agent mentioned, it was an opportunity to be his personal boss.

“His aim was to attempt to discover what we name ‘the plug,’ the supply of provide that will get you energy and management,” the lead investigator informed The Courier Journal. That manner “everyone has to return to you.”

Once they acquired out of jail, Greenhill flew to California to satisfy Jose Prieto. They fashioned a partnership, discussing drug shipments and costs, the agent mentioned.

Greenhill despatched an affiliate to dwell with Jose Prieto for six months, working within the marijuana fields and playing collectively in Las Vegas.

The lads from Detroit established belief and Jose Prieto quickly despatched them 50-pound shipments of meth from California to Kentucky.

At the moment, DEA brokers estimate that quantity was price about $150,000 on the West Coast, however might yield as a lot as $500,000 in Louisville.

The Prietos despatched associates to gasoline stations and different places in Southern California to choose up medication, the lead investigator mentioned. That affiliate would ship the medication to a shipper, somebody designated to get the medication to Louisville and different locations.

Additionally they despatched associates to Louisville and put them up in resorts, the place they waited for Wiley Greenhill or considered one of his associates to deliver cash to their resort room, the DEA agent mentioned. A trusted shipper would then ship the medication and the Prieto affiliate would depart the resort with the drug fee.

Wiley Greenhill or his designee would depart with the medication.

Although it labored for awhile, ultimately Wiley Greenhill began to run up a tab with the Prietos, based on court docket information. He was “fronting” medication — loaning some traffickers medication earlier than they paid for them.

In flip, that meant he could not pay the Prietos.

When Greenhill’s tab climbed to $400,000, Jose Prieto minimize him off.

On the similar time, Greenhill’s brother, Jamarr Greenhill, minimize ties and branched out on his personal. He established his personal pipeline from Kentucky to California, passing his older brother.

Brokers persuaded judges to allow them to monitor drug traffickers’ telephones and actions.

They had been listening when Louis Prieto informed an affiliate that his father was upset and in Louisville and that Wiley Greenhill’s life was at risk, based on a transcript of court docket testimony.

“My dad’s taking individuals out proper now, man,” Louis Greenhill cautioned in a recorded name, based on court docket information. “Ensure you’re on the proper staff.”

Sufferer’s final phrases: ‘Assist me!’

Amber Lynn Stepp, 28, and a male acquaintance drove to a Louisville house on a sunny day — Could 9, 2016 — as males tended the grill throughout a birthday celebration.

However the mom of a bit of lady and boy no means made it out of her silver Ford Fusion.

Amber Lynn Pack
Amber Lynn Pack

Her passenger hopped out of the automobile, walked round and leaned in to speak to her from the motive force’s aspect window. Brandon A. Williamson, 29, walked up behind him, leaned over and pointed a gun at Stepp.

She screamed, “Assist me!”

Witnesses watched Williamson shoot Stepp within the arm, then stroll nearer and fireplace a bullet into her face.

She slumped over useless.

A witness informed Louisville police Williamson grabbed a Gucci backpack from Stepp’s again seat and ran to the again of the house within the Portland neighborhood, based on a recorded police interview. Partygoers scrambled in one other course towards an alley.

Police ultimately tracked down Williamson, who’s serving a 10-year sentence in a Kentucky jail for second-degree manslaughter.

Convicted killer Brandon Williamson
Convicted killer Brandon Williamson

The lead agent mentioned drug ring members are suspected of hiring Williamson of Detroit as a hitman to silence Stepp, a drug courier with inside information of the group.

Lower than a month earlier than her demise, police stopped Stepp and two males at an airport in Arizona and located greater than $20,000 hidden inside the liner of her suitcase.

Stepp later informed police the three had flown on one-way tickets to Phoenix to purchase meth and presumably heroin to deliver again to Louisville, based on an investigatory letter in Kentucky court docket information.

Stepp additionally mentioned she was afraid of an unnamed drug seller.

In a photograph posted on her Fb web page, she is smiling together with her younger son and daughter. Her family informed reporters she was a loving mother who struggled with habit, and so they had tried to get her assist.

Murder suspect netted in Oklahoma

Seven months later, a drug ring affiliate was accused of killing a person in Louisville.

Quenton Corridor, an alleged Greenhill drug courier generally known as “Q-Tip,” gunned down 27-year-old Fernandez Bowman on Dec. 2, 2016, close to Algonquin Park.

Corridor peppered Bowman’s silver sedan with bullets within the 1600 block of South 25th Road. After a number of photographs hit into Bowman’s chest, his automobile struck a phone pole and fence earlier than coming to relaxation towards a home close to South 25th Road and Burwell Avenue.

5 days later, Corridor was arrested in Vinita, Oklahoma, after police discovered 15 kilos of meth in his rental automobile, based on a felony criticism filed towards him in federal court docket.

He was launched on bond and fled.

Corridor had been on the run for a number of weeks when Louisville Metro Police say they caught as much as him on Jan. 31, 2017, in his white Dodge Durango and tried to cease him within the 4700 block of Dixie Freeway.

Quenton Hall
Quenton Corridor

Corridor pumped the gasoline and struck a police automobile.

When officers lastly stopped him, they discovered marijuana and tablets in his pockets, massive quantities of meth and heroin within the middle console and a loaded 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun within the driver’s seat.

He’s serving a 15-year jail sentence in a state jail for first-degree manslaughter in Bowman’s demise, based on the Kentucky Division of Corrections.

A potential revenge killing in Detroit

Two months after Bowman’s slaying, the drug ring was suspected of a revenge killing in Detroit.

Courtney Willis, 26, a Greenhill drug ring affiliate, allegedly stole meth from the group and returned to his house state of Michigan to go to household in Muskegon Heights, a three-hour drive northwest of Detroit close to Lake Michigan.

Somebody fired 13 rounds at him inside a relative’s home on Feb. 1, 2017, placing Willis 9 instances.

Muskegon police informed reporters the variety of gunshots indicated somebody needed to ship a message. Nonetheless, investigators have not discovered sufficient proof to file fees.

Tailing a meth bundle to a lethal finish

A 12 months later, drug ring member Roger Dale Goodman, 37, and his buddies headed to choose up a field with 2 kilos of meth for the group.

He did not know Louisville police had intercepted the bundle, mailed means of a non-public parcel service, and watched as Goodman picked it up from a porch in Buechel, then drove off in his white Chevy pickup truck.

Narcotics detectives quickly stopped the truck close to Der and Carey avenues, seven miles northwest of the Louisville Muhammad Ali Worldwide Airport.

As Detective Hyche stepped towards it to arrest Goodman, a backseat passenger opened fireplace. Hyche’s companion returned fireplace, killing two passengers.

Goodman pleaded responsible in 2019 in federal court docket to meth trafficking and is serving a 10-year sentence. Hyche recovered and returned to work.

With Goodman in jail, Laura Daybreak Pack, 36, stepped in to choose up drug shipments for the group.

Brokers who monitored Jose Prieto’s actions and cellphone say Pack grew to become entwined in a romantic relationship with him.

Her mates noticed her as a doting mom of a younger son who cherished to bop and act goofy. Brokers believed Jose Prieto started to see her as a legal responsibility.

Investigators caught her with seven kilos of meth and greater than $44,000 in drug proceeds.

She informed brokers she acquired 10 kilos of meth weekly from Jose Prieto and would meet him or Louis Prieto at space resorts for cash drops, together with one involving $75,000.

If Jose Prieto nervous she would possibly spill secrets and techniques to police, he was proper.

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A mysterious demise in Mississippi

Investigators had been listening when Pack referred to as boyfriend Jose Prieto. She nervous she now owed the drug-ring cash after police intercepted the meth and cash, based on court docket information.

He refused to ship her cash and cautioned: “That you must lay low. That you must take that rock that I gave you in your finger and go pawn it should you want cash in your children.”

The agent mentioned: “After her arrest, she’s scared to demise of Jose Prieto.”

Laura Dawn Pack
Laura Daybreak Pack

She put her affairs so as, together with signing over custody of her son, and headed to a Tunica on line casino.

Her physique was discovered July 5, 2018, on the ground of her on line casino resort room with a gunshot to the top. Months earlier than her demise, Jose Prieto had visited the identical on line casino.

Throughout a bond listening to for Jose Prieto, federal prosecutors in Louisville cited Pack’s suspicious demise as one of many causes he posed a hazard to potential authorities witnesses and others. The choose agreed to disclaim bond.

Tunica police dominated Pack’s demise a suicide. However the lead agent informed The Courier Journal: “We’re not totally satisfied. I feel she might have been given an ultimatum,” to take her personal life or the drug ring would kill her or somebody she cherished.

After all of the injury they levied personally or not directly, Jose Prieto and his son quietly surrendered to police outdoors their West Coast houses on Aug. 13, 2019.

Each pleaded responsible in Louisville final 12 months to trafficking greater than 50 grams of meth. Additionally they admitted to cash laundering as a result of proof unearthed the DEA and Inside Income Service’s Felony Investigation.

In December, a choose sentenced Jose Prieto to serve eight years and one month in federal jail. His son is serving a sentence of seven years and three months.

The case is not over. Extra suspected crimes linked to the ring stay below investigation.

Brokers would not give names of suspects or reveal the states concerned.

Reporter Beth Warren:; 502-582-7164; Twitter @BethWarrenCJ.

This text initially appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Sinaloa Cartel tied to string of Louisville, Kentucky crimes

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