Crime

A Temple man and six other Central Texans were arrested Tuesday by federal and state authorities for their roles in a methamphetamine distribution operation, officials announced.

Those arrested Tuesday include Rodney MacPherson, 51, of Temple; Anna Ruetz, 30, of Waco; Blake Deeann Blanchard, 30, of Gatesville; Lamarcus Lamond Minter, 41, of Moody; Shae Lynn Rice, 55, of McGregor; and, Roberto Gonzalez, 34, also of McGregor.

Another suspect, McGregor resident Ulysses Lopez, 46, was already in state custody, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney John F. Bash.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday charges each of the defendants with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

The seven arrests were in connection with 15 methamphetamine arrests earlier this year as part of the same investigation.

Authorities allege that the drug trafficking organization — under the leadership of 25-year-old McGregor resident Gabriel Flores-Benitez — was responsible for the sale and distribution of large amounts of methamphetamine throughout Central Texas since May 2019.

Authorities also seized approximately two kilograms of methamphetamine and three firearms in connection with the case.

“Transnational and violent drug traffickers should take note that federal, state, and local law enforcement in Central Texas is well organized, cooperative and highly effective,” Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Steven S. Whipple said in the release. “This investigation is an excellent example of how area law enforcement agencies work together to make this community safer.”

If convicted, MacPherson faces between ten years and life in federal prison.

The remaining defendants face between five and 40 years in federal prison upon conviction.

The investigation involved several law enforcement agencies. DEA, Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division, 220th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Bosque County Sheriff’s Office, Hamilton Police Department, Comanche Police Department and Coryell County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.

The Temple Police Department, Bell County Sheriff’s Department, McLennan County Sheriff’s Department, McGregor Police Department, Comanche County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshals Service provided assistance during the investigation, the release said.

The suspects remain in federal custody as detention hearings are expected to occur next week before Waco-based U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Manske.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Frazier and Stephanie Smith-Burris are prosecutors of the case.