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With a jury trial looming Monday, about 25 people entered negotiated guilty pleas this week to charges related to their participation in a methamphetamine ring based in North Little Rock.

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The pleas were accepted by U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. in a series of individual hearings that ended late Friday afternoon. Because the other defendants in the case, known as "Operation Falcon Ridge," already had negotiated plea agreements before the week began, the last-minute plea bargains negated the need for a trial.

The 35 defendants, who were indicted less than a year ago, are now adjudicated guilty and awaiting sentencing.

"Well done," Marshall told Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Givens at the last plea hearing Friday, citing the speed at which the case has proceeded since the first 12 people were indicted Nov. 5. Another 23 people were added in a superseding indictment handed up March 12.

The indictment alleged a methamphetamine ring led by Michael Glover, 31, of Cabot resulted in several pounds of the illegal drug being purchased in Arizona and transported to Arkansas for distribution in 2013 and 2014.

Glover pleaded guilty in September to the main charge of conspiring to distribute the drug, and he is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 15. The conviction carries a sentence of between 10 years and life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million, but because Glover has prior convictions that classify him as a "career offender" under federal law, he will face more than the minimum.

John Boyce, another admitted major player in the conspiracy who is also classified as a career offender, pleaded guilty Monday and is scheduled for sentencing April 20.

The other top conspirators, according to the U.S. attorney's office, are Brent McNair, who pleaded guilty Wednesday, and Lindsey Hosford, who pleaded guilty Oct. 6. Both are considered the main distributors for the group, and they admitted to distributing between 500 grams and 1.5 kilograms, or 3.3 pounds, of methamphetamine in Arkansas in the two-year period.

Both McNair and Hosford face penalty enhancements for admitting to possessing a gun while distributing the drug.

The Little Rock office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in March that its investigation into the drug ring grew as a result of wiretaps placed on the mobile phones of at least two participants in the conspiracy. The agency said undercover officers made 16 controlled purchases of the drug and executed nine search warrants that resulted in the seizure of nearly 2 pounds of the drug.

According to what Givens told the judge Friday, Glover made regular trips to Arizona in 2013 and 2014, usually transporting 10 pounds of methamphetamine to Arkansas on each trip.

He said federal agents had Glover and his companions under surveillance on the last trip, in October 2014, when a search warrant was executed on a rental house in Phoenix, resulting in agents finding the remnants of 11 pounds of methamphetamine that McNair had tried to flush down the toilet as agents arrived.

The flushing attempt left the toilet clogged, and although most of the drug was gone, agents found an empty bag indicating the amount of drug that had been flushed and collected residue from the rim of the toilet. A woman who was part of the conspiracy was then apprehended at the airport in Phoenix with $20,000 from drug proceeds, Givens told the judge.

Metro on 10/24/2015

Print Headline: 25 more in meth ring plead guilty

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