WHEELING - Recent investigations by the Ohio Valley Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force led to the indictment of 12 individuals on drug and gun charges, local and federal law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.
Standing in the Wheeling City Council chambers next to Ohio County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Drage Flick and United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II, Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger applauded the work of the drug task force.
"Another shining example of the cooperation between law enforcement agencies on a local, state and federal level," Schwertfeger said. "I think the work that's being done here in the Northern Panhandle, and particularly Wheeling, Ohio County, is unprecedented across the country."
The indictments were returned by two grand jurys convened in August and October, and the investigations by the drug task force took place throughout the summer. Some of the charges are the result of direct drug purchases by undercover officers.
All but one of the suspects has been arrested, and four were apprehended locally Wednesday. Some remain in custody, either in the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville or nearby jurisdictions, while others have posted bond and been released. Some defendants have trials scheduled as early as next month.
The following individuals were indicted:
Clarence Bertram, 21, of Wheeling, distribution of crack cocaine.
Dale Davis, also known as "Big Loc," 36, of Wheeling, distribution of crack cocaine and heroin, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.
Jerome Ross, 22, of Wheeling, distribution of crack cocaine and heroin.
Devon Bertram, aka "Von," 23, of Wheeling, distribution of crack cocaine.
Sylvester Walker, aka "Coop," 21, of Wheeling, distribution of crack cocaine and heroin.
Nicole Gust, 20, of Bellaire, aiding and abetting the distribution of crack cocaine.
Charles Wilkes, aka "Eddy Getty," 28, of Wheeling, distribution of crack cocaine, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number.
Stedmund Creech, 24, of Steubenville, felon in possession of a firearm.
Javon L. Scott, 28, of Wellsburg, felon in possession of a firearm.
Emanuel Banks, aka "Sammy," 40, of Wheeling, distribution of crack cocaine.
Gary Wade, aka "Moe," 39, of Wheeling, distribution of crack cocaine.
Jewan Kyle, 24, aka "Cheddar," of Cleveland, distribution of crack cocaine and heroin.
Kyle remains wanted by law enforcement. Anyone with knowledge of his whereabouts is urged to call their local police or sheriff's department, or the U.S. Marshals Service at (304) 232-2980.
While Ihlenfeld said some of those indicted may have been in the process of banding together, the suspects were not operating as a single drug organization at the time of their arrests.
"It's important for the community to know the pressure that this drug task force places upon the criminal element in this area," Ihlenfeld said. "The Ohio Valley Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force is a big reason why Wheeling and the surrounding areas are such a safe place to live and raise a family."
Ihlenfeld said his office continues to operate despite a reduction in federal staff due to the government shutdown.
"Some days it feels like we have one hand tied behind our back," he shared. "I just hope that this shutdown get resolved soon so that my colleagues can come back to work continue to help us keep the community safe."
Every suspect charged with drug distribution is accused of dealing crack cocaine. Some are also suspected of dealing heroin. That contrasts with previous drug indictments, which were mostly suspects trafficking prescription pain pills.
"We're seeing more trafficking in heroin than we did last year, and the year before that, and I don't think we've reached the peak of that problem," Ihlenfeld said. "It's more than just arresting those who are alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking. Some of these suspects are extremely violent."