U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett announced the indictments at the Clay County Justice Center, praising the efforts of federal, state and local authorities from across the area.
"With some measure of joy we are announcing the indictment of 18 individuals in a comprehensive, multi-jurisdictional sting, which I think has dismantled, effectively, an alleged statewide methamphetamine operation," Hogsett said.
Local defendants include Joseph David Havey, 44, Cloverdale; Donald Cheatham, 49, Reelsville; and Scott Campbell, 45, Poland.
Most of the arrests center around the Brazil and Clay County area, with ties to Putnam and Vigo counties.
According to the indictment, Havey was a middleman in the operation, obtaining meth directly from Edgar Perez, 32, Columbus, the man alleged to be the source for the entire organization.
Campbell is alleged to have assisted Havey in the procurement of the drugs.
Donald Cheatham is one of several people listed as Brazil-area distributors.
Others named in the indictment include:
* Cassandra Cheatham, 43, Brazil
* Jacob Dean, 24, Brazil
* Gwendolyn Kallner, 44, Brazil
* Christopher Loughmiller, 26, Brazil
* Robert Moore, 46, Brazil
* Sankey Rust, 32, Brazil
* Laura Sproul, 31, Brazil
* Theresa Goings, 53, Riley
* Geoffrey Cheek, 25, Terre Haute
* Lori Larkins, 37, Terre Haute
* James C. Smith, 50, Terre Haute
* Michael E. Smith, 38, Terre Haute
* Kimberly A. Williams, 44, Terre Haute
All of the defendants are charged with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute and distributing methamphetamine.
All but one of those indicted is in custody, with Rust remaining at large.
"We are told he may very well be armed," Hogsett said of Rust. "As a result, I would hope (citizens) understand that until he is taken into custody he presents a danger."
Cassandra Cheatham, with assistance from Havey, is alleged to have obtained large quantities of methamphetamine from Perez in Columbus.
She would then allegedly provide the drugs to Brazil-area distributors Goings, Moore, Donald Cheatham, Loughmiller, Rust, and Dean.
Sproul and Kallner are said to have assisted in the transportation of the methamphetamine and the arrangement of local methamphetamine sales.
Campbell is alleged to have assisted Havey in the procurement of methamphetamine from Perez.
In addition to distributing in the Brazil area, Goings is alleged to have provided the meth to Terre Haute distributors Beard, James Smith, Michael Smith, Cheek, and Williams.
The indictment alleges that Larkins assisted Goings by transporting methamphetamine and money derived from drug sales.
The nature of the federal indictment was touted as a victory by federal and local officials on two levels.
The first is the "dismantling" effect Hogsett mentioned. By crossing jurisdictional lines, authorities believe they have made a dent in the drug supply coming to the area, rather than simply taking out the low-level dealers.
"The community doesn't realize how structured these dealing functions are -- the many layers, the number of people involved, how organized they are and how hard they work to fly under the radar and go unnoticed," Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger said. "It was nice to see that all these organizations were able to work together to take down something that is upper-middle management."
Secondly, the nature of federal charges as opposed to state charges means the defendants face stiffer penalties and a guarantee of serving a higher percentage of the time sentenced in prison if convicted.
The conspiracy charge carries a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million. Loughmiller, Cassandra Cheatham, Cheek, Goings and Beard also face an additional charge of distributing methamphetamine.
Due to their criminal histories, some defendants may face sentencing enhancements, including a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison and fines up to $20 million.
Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter expressed his approval that those convicted of federal charges have to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence behind bars.
"We've asked as a group of 91 prosecutors in the state of Indiana that we have 85 percent of sentencing. The legislature has not agreed to this. So our guys are only doing about 40 percent," Bookwalter said. "In the federal system, they do 85 percent, so that's a major difference."
The Putnam County Sheriff's Department made the arrests of Havey and Donald Cheatham. Chief Deputy Doug Nally spoke on behalf of the department, saying they were glad to take part in the successful operation.
Nally also believes more indictments could be coming as a result of the cooperative efforts of the various agencies.
"We're hopeful that more will come of this," Nally said.