50-year sentence in heroin pipeline scheme

Posted at 1:02 AM, Dec 23, 2015

LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. -- A man who authorities say was the mastermind of a scheme to ship heroin to the Tri-State by hiding it in the doors of rental cars was sentenced to 50 years in an Indiana state prison.

John Marcel Smith was convicted Oct. 27 of conspiracy to commit dealing in a narcotic drug over three grams.

But the case, prosecutors said, dates back more than three years, to a traffic stop on Interstate 74. In June 2012, State trooper Jimmy Wells stopped Destanee E. Gaines, 21, of Cincinnati, while she was driving eastbound on I-74 in Dearborn County, according to a statement from Indiana State Police.

Wells developed probable cause to search the vehicle and found 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of heroin located inside the driver's door panel of Gaines' 2012 Chevrolet Caprice.

Wells learned that Gaines was supposed to deliver the heroin -- valued at $450,000 -- to Aldon Webb, Jr., 30, of Cincinnati. After Gaines' arrest, police informed Webb that the car was taken to a Lawrenceburg towing company, but Webb did not know the heroin had been discovered, according to Indiana State Police.

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Wells and Lawrenceburg police maintained surveillance of the car and arrested Webb when he arrived at the towing company and attempted to remove the driver's side door panel at about 10:30 p.m., according to police. He allegedly was searching for the heroin.

Like Gaines, Webb began cooperating with investigators, both pointing to Smith as the supplier, according to records in the case.

The seized heroin was valued at $450,000, but that's the wholesale value. In opening statements in the case, Prosecutor Aaron Negangard said it could be cut into 300,000 hits for the street; if that was sold for between $10 and $30 a hit, it would generate millions in revenue.

"This case was the result of the collaborative effort between multiple state and federal agencies and led to the arrest and conviction of a serious drug dealer providing significant amounts of heroin to the greater Cincinnati and Southeastern Indiana area," Negangard said in a statement announcing Smith's sentence. "The teamwork between these agencies allowed law enforcement to get a dangerous drug dealer off the street and limit the amount of heroin being delivered into our local area."

According to documents from a sentencing hearing, Smith is serving an 18-year sentence on federal drug charges; his Indiana sentence will be served after he completes his federal prison term.