United States Attorney's Office for the District of South Dakota

02/20/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/20/2024 16:36

U.S. Attorney's Office Announces Charges in Multi-State Meth and Money Laundering Conspiracy

Press Release

U.S. Attorney's Office Announces Charges in Multi-State Meth and Money Laundering Conspiracy

Tuesday, February 20, 2024
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota

U.S. Attorney's Office Announces Charges in Multi-State Meth and Money Laundering Conspiracy

First of 24 Co-Conspirators Sentenced to Ten Years in Federal Prison

United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced that 24 individuals have been indicted by a federal grand jury for Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine. On February 5, 2024, U.S. District Court Judge Karen E. Schreier sentenced the first of 24 co-conspirators, Marissa Apodaca, 36, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to 10 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release. Apodaca was further ordered to pay a $100 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. She pleaded guilty to the charge of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance on October 30, 2023.

Additional Defendants charged in the widespread conspiracy include:

  1. Nathan Johnson, 38, of Denver, Colorado
  2. Michele Johnson, 48, of Steen, Minnesota
  3. Matthew Thomas, 51, of Denver, Colorado
  4. Jesse Richmond, 50, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  5. Tony Hunter, a/k/a "Ox," 52, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  6. Lance Brunsting, 55, of Denver, Colorado
  7. Darrin Johnson, 42, of Denver, Colorado
  8. Hanna Felling, 39, of St. Cloud, Minnesota
  9. Nicholas Ganske, 44, of Tea, South Dakota
  10. Donald Wise, 42, of Crooks, South Dakota
  11. Jesus Salamo-Roche, 63, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  12. Misty Turner, 34, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  13. Jessica Knight, 45, of Presho, South Dakota
  14. Christopher Spider, 44, of Presho, South Dakota
  15. Sapphire Big Eagle, 29, of Lower Brule, South Dakota
  16. Sunny Big Eagle, 48, of Lower Brule, South Dakota
  17. Donald Wagner, 68, of Denver, Colorado
  18. Donovan Pinkston, 37, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  19. Destiny Wilson, 34, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  20. Caitlin Schmidt, 29, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  21. Nicholas Sherard, 35, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  22. Cody Schmidt, 35, of Steen, Minnesota
  23. Terry Rider, 48, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The grand jury also charged Nathan Johnson, Michele Johnson, Matthew Thomas, and Jesse Richmond with Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments, and Tony Hunter with possession of a firearm by a felon. All individuals were indicted on August 8, 2023.

The Indictments allege that from an unknown date through July 26, 2023, the above-listed individuals conspired with others to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine in South Dakota and elsewhere. The money laundering charges allege that from an unknown date to July 26, 2023, the four above-listed defendants conspired to conduct financial transactions which involved the proceeds from this drug conspiracy. The charges are merely accusations, and the individuals are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. Since Indictment, each defendant has appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy and pleaded not guilty.

Nathan Johnson, Michele Johnson, Matthew Thomas, Jesse Richmond, Tony Hunter, Nicholas Ganske, Donald Wise, Jesus Salamo-Roche, Donald Wagner, Nicholas Sherard, and Terry Rider all face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years upon conviction for Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance and a maximum of life in federal prison. All other defendants face a penalty upon conviction for Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance of up to 20 years in federal prison. The money laundering charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

The investigation is being led by the Drug Enforcement Administration with assistance from other law enforcement agencies such as: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Sioux Falls Area Drug Task Force, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, Brookings Police Department, the South Dakota Highway Patrol, Rock County (MN) Sheriff's Office, Worthington (MN) Police Department, and Mitchell Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paige Petersen.

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Updated February 20, 2024