UPDATE: Operation “Triple Threat” Nets Seven Arrests; More Expected (Photo Gallery)

PHOTOS: Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office / CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW

Jasper (Local Sources) – The third major arrest sweep in the last two years of suspected local drug dealers netted seven arrests Monday.

In a news release from the Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office, beginning in April of 2015, Dubois County Narcotics Officer John Anderson and Dubois County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Beth Sermersheim initiated Operation Triple Threat, conducting undercover drug buys. The name “Operation Triple Threat” was chosen because it is the third operation of its kind, following Operation Big Brother and Operation Double Trouble in 2014 and 2015. Operation Big Brother resulted in a 16 arrest round up, and Operation Double Trouble resulted in an 18 arrest round up. Like the first two Operations, the informants used for Operation Triple Threat were developed primarily through street level arrests made by uniformed patrol officers and Officer Anderson. Informants made undercover drug buys of heroin, methamphetamine, Schedule II, and Schedule IV controlled substances. As a result of the covert investigations, felony arrest warrants for drug dealing charges were obtained by the Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office.

On Monday morning, May 2, 2016, deputies with the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department began serving arrest warrants on subjects for drug dealing charges stemming from an investigation known as “Operation Triple Threat.”

In total, 10 individuals are facing drug dealing charges as part of this Operation. The 7 arrested on warrants thus far include:

Andrew J. Long Jr., 25, Huntingburg, Count 1: Dealing in a Narcotic Drug, a Level 2 felony, and Count 2: Dealing in Methamphetamine, a Level 4 felony.

Maurice R. Zapata II, 22, Huntingburg, Count 1: Dealing in Methamphetamine, a Level 4 felony.

Jeremy J. Lorey, 42, Jasper, Count 1: Dealing in Methamphetamine, a Level 5 felony, and Count 2: Dealing in Methamphetamine, a Level 5 felony.

John J. Bickerest IV, 30, Jasper, Count 1: Dealing in a Narcotic Drug, a Level 5 felony, and Count 2: Dealing in a Narcotic Drug, a Level 5 felony.

Justin R. MacDonald, 34, Ferdinand, Count 1: Dealing in a Narcotic Drug, a Level 5 felony, Count 2, Dealing in a Narcotic Drug, a Level 5 felony, and Notice of Intent to Seek Habitual Offender Status.

Cole M. Denton, 28, Huntingburg, Count 1: Dealing in a Narcotic Drug, a Level 3 felony, Count 2: Dealing in a Narcotic Drug, a Level 5 felony, and Count 3, Dealing in a Narcotic Drug, a Level 5 felony.

Yaun M. Helms, 40, Rockport, Count 1: Dealing in a Narcotic Drug, a Level 4 felony, and Count 2, Dealing in a Schedule IV Controlled Substance, a Level 5 felony.

Three arrest warrants remain outstanding at this time. (The fact that a person has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.)

Operation Triple Threat is not as large as the first two Operations. Operation Big Brother and Operation Double Trouble resulted in 16 and 18 drug dealing arrests, respectively. The Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office and Narcotics Officer Anderson decided to terminate their latest Operation at 10 individuals due to the current state of the Indiana Criminal Code. On July 1, 2014, the Indiana Criminal Code dramatically changed and drastically reduced penalties for drug related offenses. The Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office reports that since that time, individuals have been much less willing to work as confidential informants (CIs). Given the weakened penalties for drug offenses, individuals would rather accept their lenient punishments than work with the police.

The legislature’s intent in enacting the new Indiana Criminal Code was to try to rehabilitate low level offenders rather than imprisoning them. However, the Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office has experienced a different effect. These individuals aren’t being rehabilitated. Rather, in accordance with the new criminal code, they are being placed on probation and in community corrections programs. While on those programs, they are continuing to reoffend, and in doing so, eventually wind up serving short jail sentences.

In addition, the prevalence of drug use and dealing has not decreased in Dubois County. Rather, the Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office reports seeing a great increase in the prevalence of heroin in our community. Individuals are now traveling on a daily basis to surrounding metropolitan areas, predominantly Louisville and Indianapolis, and are bringing large quantities of heroin back to Dubois County to distribute.

Another unintended consequence seen by the Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office includes an increase in non-drug related criminal offenses. An increase in the prevalence of drugs has also led to an increase in the commission of the following offenses: theft, burglary, unauthorized entry of a motor vehicle, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, battery, domestic battery, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and neglect of a dependent. Individuals engaged in drug seeking behavior often resort to theft in order to further their drug habit. Furthermore, their drug use leads to intoxication which can lead to violent and dangerous behavior. The Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office believes that all crime will increase until harsher penalties are imposed under the Indiana Criminal Code.

In addition, as with the first two operations, one individual who would’ve faced charges as part of Operation Triple Threat is now deceased. In total, four individuals involved in these Operations are now deceased. This figure further demonstrates the perilous nature of being involved in drug dealing.

Despite the current legislative barriers, the Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office and the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department are not going to stop combating the drug problem in Dubois County. They remain hopeful that the legislature will reinstitute harsher penalties in the future.

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