Leader of Natrona County drug ring gets 12-18 year prison term

1 month ago Oil City News

CASPER, Wyo — A Casper man convicted of leading a drug distribution conspiracy with over a dozen charged co-defendants has been sentenced to 12 to 18 years in state prison.

“He was the leader of major illegal business here in Natrona County… a business that destroys families,”  Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri told Judge Kerri Johnson at the hearing.

Wyoming DCI agent Brad Reinhart recapped the investigation as a witness for the state before sentencing. Reinhardt said that Wallace and his girlfriend, Hope Vallez, were arrested with 11.97 pounds of methamphetamine on March 17, 2022, after a trip to Colorado to visit a supplier.  Agents also found 2,862 fentanyl pills, 16 pounds of marijuana, 52.6 grams of cocaine, two firearms reported stolen out of Natrona County, and over $34,000 cash.

Xavier Bynum, named as another top-level distributor in the conspiracy, was also arrested on a warrant that night.

The next day, agents executed a warrant at an auto and RV shop in Mills and arrests its owner, Andrew Keller, who was also charged in the conspiracy. Later that day, agents attempted to serve an arrest warrant on another named co-conspirator, Blaine Clutter, in Evansville. That led to an overnight standoff with police and Clutter died by officer gunfire on March 19. The District Attorney’s office determined that the officers involved acted lawfully.

Reinhart said the investigation began in August 2021,  when a confidential informant told investigators Wallace was bringing up to two pounds of meth at a time into the state from Colorado. Through physical and electronic surveillance, Reinhardt said investigators identified several co-conspirators, some of whom distributed drugs in Fremont and Campbell counties.

In addition to those named, eleven defendants were indicted by a grand jury on charges of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine and delivery of methamphetamine. One, Tanner Foust, has persisted in a not guilty plea and is scheduled for trial. Another defendant, Kameron Young-Johnson, was killed in a double homicide last summer.  Luke Young has been charged and has pleaded not guilty to the crime.

Though some of the defendants had received suspended sentences as part of their plea deals, Judge Johnson said that several had also gotten prison terms, particularly those convicted of distributing fentanyl. 

Wallace’s attorney and family members, spoke to Wallace’s character while asking Judge Johnson for leniency. The state had asked for a 15-20 sentence.

“I’ve never seen an evil bone in his body,” said Jessica Moss, who essentially became Wallace’s stepmother when he was six. She said Wallace had been abandoned by both his mother and father and spent many of his formative years under the care of an abusive grandfather, a situation state agencies had failed to address.

“We let this one slip through the cracks, your Honor,” attorney Danny Harts said, adding that Wallace had also run a car business prior to his arrest

Wallace’s half-brother told Oil City News after the hearing that he admired Wallace’s mental fortitude, and had learned about fitness, cars, and emotional resilience through him.

When arguing for the imposed sentence, Taheri recounted Wallace’s criminal history. There had been three prior felonies, including over a dozen home burglaries and convictions for possession of meth and cocaine with intent to distribute. 

“The system probably did fail you,” Judge Johnson told Wallace, but said that his choice to deal drugs that “wreak havoc on the lives of families and children” necessitated a strong prison term. “He’s earned 15 to 20 years,” Judge Johnson said.

Wallace was ultimately sentenced to 12-18 years on both the fentanyl and methamphetamine conspiracy charges. He was sentenced to 6-8 years for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. For possession of cocaine in a felony weight, the sentence was 5-7 years. For possession of anabolic steroids with intent to distribute, he was given 5-7 years.

Concurrent sentencing was the state’s only offer when Wallace entered his guilty plea.

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