Last of 11 defendants in massive Chicago-to-Point drug ring sentenced to 20 years in prison
Editor’s Note: To protect the nature of their investigative positions, the narcotics officers’ faces and CV’s can’t be published, but local law enforcement authorities have given approval for their names to be released publicly, and all three officers willingly participated in interviews.
By Brandi Makuski
Exactly three years after local investigators first uncovered a large-scale heroin conspiracy in Portage County, the last of 11 defendants involved has been sentenced to prison.
The 20-year federal prison sentence for ringleader Hurley C. Jackson, 24, of Milwaukee, on Tuesday brings to close hundreds — possibly thousands — of man hours on the case by local law enforcement, led by Plover Detective Brian Noel, Stevens Point Detective Mike Schultz and Portage County Sheriff’s Investigator Tony Gischia.
The three comprise the county’s contingent of the Central Wisconsin Drug Task Force, and broke the case wide open in 2014 when each noticed overlapping suspects in individual cases they were working.
“It wasn’t really a light bulb moment or anything,” Gischia said. “But the more overlap we saw, the more we realized it was something larger than just one investigation.”
Hurley Jackson was convicted in January; his brothers and co-conspirators, Terrence Jackson and Charles Hall, were sentenced to federal prison in April for distributing heroin in Portage, Waupaca and Wood counties. Several others from Portage Co. have also since been sent to prison for their role in the drug ring.
Resolving the case did not go unnoticed, as the trio were awarded “Investigation of the Year” for their work on the case, which was named Operation: Who’s the Boss, at the 2016 Wisconsin Narcotics Officers’ Conference last August.
According to Noel, the operation conducted 36 undercover drug purchases, bringing in 33 grams of heroin with an approximate street value of $16,500. Throughout the process, the trio identified more than 160 subjects related to the drug ring, with 32 drug dealers — not all were able to be prosecuted — and at least six non lethal drug overdoses.
Detectives were also able to retroactively track an additional seven-and-a-half kilograms of heroin delivered to the three counties between May, 2014 and August of 2015.
“I think we had an idea where [the heroin] was coming from, once we could identify the individuals supplying the heroin,” Gischia said. “People sell drugs for different reasons; some for profit, some to support their own habit. The people doing it to support their habit are typically the one with ties to those doing it for profit, and that leads to people outside the area. Let’s be realistic — heroin isn’t grown and processed here in Stevens Point.”
Gischia said he, Noel and Schultz all spent several days in Madison to provide testimony in federal court and work with prosecutors on trial preparation.
“We spent a lot of time going over everything to make sure everything was done super-correctly because of the scale of the case,” he said.
But all three investigators maintain the resolution of the case — and the award that came with it — is just business.
Noel said the arrests made a “significant impact” on the local heroin trade, but their job isn’t over.
“Is it complete eradicated? Absolutely not,” Noel said. “But this group [of defendants] had a significant stronghold on the heroin in this area…since the arrests and the indictments, the amount of heroin cases we see has dropped significantly. But there’s still plenty of drugs in the community, so we’re not done; we probably will never be.”
“It’s definitely a sense of satisfaction,” Schultz said after Hurley Jackson’s conviction in January. “We all put a lot of effort into the case in one way or another, so it’s nice to have an outcome like this in the end. But drugs aren’t going away, so it’s a constant job, we’re always investigating someone.”
“This one may be over, but there’s more investigation to do — it’s not like a Superbowl party when we finished,” Gischia said. “But it feels good; it’s almost like a load off your shoulders because you spent all these hours and years focusing on this investigation. To me, it’s a job, I don’t take it personal, but it was nice to see the finished product, so to speak. But we know there’s more work to be done.”
Defendants convicted in federal court
- Charles D. Hall, 31 of Waupaca, sentenced to 156 months (13 years) in federal prison for distributing heroin, sentenced Aug. 31, 2016.
- Cody Thompson, 24 of New Hope, sentenced to 30 months for distributing heroin on Jan. 21, 2016
- Megan Pray Genett, 21 of Belmont, sentenced to 24 months for distributing heroin on Feb. 2, 2016
- Marguerite “Beth” Tompkins, 24 of Stevens Point, sentenced to 60 months for conspiring to distribute heroin on March 8, 2016
- Kristy Dietel, 35 of Stevens Point, sentenced to 36 months for conspiring to distribute heroin on March 22, 2016
- Tiffany A. Bell, 25 of Plover, sentenced to 138 months (11-and-a-half years) in federal prison for conspiring to distribute heroin on April 15, 2016
- Gregory D. Richardson, 26 of Plover, sentenced to 120 months for conspiring to distribute heroin on April 22, 2016
- Hannah J. Hovick, 24 of Marshfield, sentenced to 30 months for distributing heroin on April 30, 2016