Sheriff: Willmon nabbed in 'lengthy' undercover investigation
HOT SPRINGS — After months of monitoring what appears to be an enormous Clark County-based drug operation, officials on Monday unsealed few details regarding the felony charges brought against an Okolona cattleman.
Jason Willmon, owner of Willmon Cattle Company in Okolona, was in federal court Monday for arraignment on an indictment charging him with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine.
He was reportedly out of federal custody on Wednesday morning after posting bond. The amount of that bond was not known at press time.
Willmon, 42, is accused of being involved in a drug trafficking organization that distributed "pound quantities" of meth in Southwest Arkansas, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge, who represents Arkansas' Western District.
Eldridge's press release does not indicate a precise quantity of meth that Willmon was allegedly caught with, but just one pound of meth would measure up to half of what was seized in 2012's Operation Ice Pick, when some 20 Clark County meth dealers were arrested. About $52,000 worth of the drug was confiscated during that sting.
According to average meth prices listed on www.crystalmethaddiction.org, one eight-ball of meth is valued at $200. Based on that information, about 260 eight-balls would have been seized in Operation Ice Pick. About 130 eight-balls, which measure 3.5 grams apiece, would equate to a pound of meth.
Clark County Sheriff Jason Watson said the investigation included "hundreds of hours of work by many officers — too numerous to mention each of them."
Last year federal, state and local agencies joined forces to delve into Willmon's alleged operation. The investigation included surveillance, monitoring and the execution of search warrants. Still, many questions surrounding the investigation and the alleged drug operation remain unanswered.
The case remains under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Group 6 Drug Task Force and Arkansas State Police.
Watson praised the efforts of all the special agents, investigators and officers involved in this extended investigation, saying, “The public expects and deserves the kind of collaboration that was involved in this case. This was a cooperative effort ... that would not have been possible by any one of these agencies alone.”
The recently opened case hasn't been this cattleman's first rodeo — Willmon was the target of a 2010 felony theft case in Sharp County. He was charged with theft by deception after an Ash Flat livestock auction company told detectives a check that Willmon wrote them bounced. According to the Sharp County Sheriff's Department, Willmon bought more than 800 head of cattle for $420,300, but the auctioneers received "partial payment" for the cows. Willmon then reportedly sold part of those cattle at livestock auctions in Oklahoma and Kansas.
Sharp County Circuit Clerk Tommy Estes said those charges have since been dropped.
Regarding the new allegations Eldridge said, “Today we have taken a step forward in making Arkadelphia and the surrounding community a safer place. We remain committed to the elimination of drug trafficking and the violence and other crime that takes a toll on our communities. I appreciate the leadership of the [agencies that participated] throughout this investigation.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wulff is prosecuting the case for the United States.