FORT MADISON - In a scene straight out of Miami Vice Thursday, law enforcement officers had a suspected marijuana dealer flee his island on an airboat just hours after officers arrested four others on various drug charges - including an arrest for possession and delivery of pipeline meth.
Five people were arrested on a variety of drug and weapons charges and large quantities of methamphetamine, marijuana, cash, weapons, ammunition and vehicles were seized, according to Capt. Tom Crew, commander of the Lee County Narcotics Task Force.
In addition to the task force, the Drug Enforcement Administraiton (DEA), Iowa Division of Narcotics, Iowa State Patrol, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Iowa Corrections K-9 Unit, Lee County Sheriff's Office, Fort Madison police and fire departments, and the Lee County Attorney's Office executed the search warrants and made the arrests.
David R. Markell of 1780 319th St., Argyle, had about a half pound of methamphetamine in his trailer/attached garage in Vincennes, just outside of Argyle, according to authorities.
"We believe this to be pipeline meth from sources other than the United States," Crew said. "This amount of meth is worth about $6,000 wholesale."
Pipeline meth is smuggled into the United States. Once inside the country it is distributed to various centralized points for distribution. Entry and the established route the drug takes as it goes from its origin to the ultimate user is the pipeline.
"Search warrants were conducted by the field units of the task force and the DEA," Crew said. "We had the ISP tactical entry team on hand to help execute the search warrants. It's a specialized unit that trains for high risk entries. They go in and secure the residence and people."
Markell and Shawn J. Dill, also of the residence, had several dogs that were secured by Dill before the residence was searched, Crew said.
In addition to the methamphetamine, officers found an SKS semi-automatic weapon (made in China) and numerous firearms, marijuana, scales, packaging materials and a large amount of U. S. currency.
Markell was charged with possession of more than five grams of methamphetamine, a Class B felony; four counts of delivery of more than five grams of methamphetamine, each a class B felony; possession of marijuana, a serious misdemeanor; possession of a firearm by a felon, a Class D felony; and violation of the drug tax stamp law.
He is being held in the Lee County Correctional Center on $3,943,220 cash only bond.
Dill was charged with with possession of marijuana, a serious misdemeanor, and was released on her own recognizance.
The home of Carlin E. James, 55, and Gloria L. James, 42, of 1805 36th St., Fort Madison, was the next stop for the drug force. At the James' residence authorities discovered more methamphetamine, marijuana, scales, packaging materials, drug paraphernalia and a large amount of cash.
The Jameses were charged with possession with intent to deliver more than five grams of methamphetamine, a Class B felony, and possession of marijuana, a serious misdemeanor. The Jameses also will be charged with two counts of delivery of methamphetamine, each a Class C felony. The delivery charges are based on an earlier investigation of the couple, Crew said.
Carlin James is being held on $1,175,580 cash only bond. Gloria James also is being held at the LCCC on $524,710 cash bond.
When officers arrived at the Jesse L. Hoenig home on Rabbit Island, the house was empty, Crew said.
"Rabbit Island is off 53rd Avenue (Ortho Road)," Crew said. "Hoenig owns his own island and has a bridge across a slough.
"When officers got there, they secured the residence, but found no one home. They heard him coming down the slough in an airboat and everyone hid. Hoenig beached the airboat, but left the motor on. When the task force came out and ordered him to get out, he wheeled it around and took off. The boat threw ice, debris and sticks around and he escaped down the river."
The ISP put a plane in the air and the Fort Madison police put their airboat in the water. The plane spotted Hoenig's boat down river, "but no Hoenig," Crew said. Hoenig later turned himself in on Friday.
During the search of Hoenig's residence officers found several pounds of marijuana, scales, packaging material, drug paraphernalia as well as numerous weapons, including an AK-47, cross bow and hand guns as well as a quantity of ammunition.
Hoenig was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, a Class D felony; possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture, a Class D felony, and violation of the drug tax stamp law, a Class D felony. Hoenig's charges will be enanced due to loaded firearms being in close proximity to the marijuana. Hoenig also will be charged with two counts of delivery of marijuana, both Class D felonies.
Crew said several marijuana plants were found growing in Hoenig's house.
Hoenig is being held in the LCCC on $98,850 cash bond.
The arrests are the culmination of years of effort by the task force. The investigation into Hoenig's operation has been ongoing for six months, Crew said. Markell has been under investigation for five to six years, and the James have been investigated for a year and a half.
"Anytime you take down larger sources like these, it makes drugs harder to find," Crew said. "We've put a serious hit on the pipeline dope coming into Lee County at this time.
"Field Supervisor Jim Sholl and the agents did a tremendous job of intelligence gathering and case management on the people arrested.
"Because we had the element of surprise it helped with the safety issue, and the ISP tactical team helps with safety."
The Lee County Narcotics Task Force is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Justice and the funds administered by the Iowa Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy.