CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charleston and multiple federal, state and local law enforcement partners resulted in two men pleading guilty Sep. 12 at the U.S. District Court in Charleston to conspiracy to distribute nearly 200 pounds of methamphetamine.
Ildiberto Gonzalez Jr., 29, of San Bernadino, California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine. Keith Royal Goode-Harper, 32, of Charleston, pleaded guilty to use of a communication facility to facilitate drug trafficking. Each admitted to his role in a drug trafficking organization that operated in the Charleston area.
“Ildiberto Gonzales and Keith Harper-Goode operated as part of a drug trafficking organization that plagued the good people of the Charleston area for far too long,” said HSI Washington, D.C. Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon. “We will not allow criminals to prey upon the residents of our communities. HSI will continue to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to rid our public of these criminal enterprises that pollute our neighborhoods with their poison.”
On March 18, 2023, Gonzalez delivered approximately 196 pounds of methamphetamine and 4 kilograms of cocaine to an individual in Bluefield in exchange for a box that he believed contained $400,000.
Gonzalez admitted that a co-conspirator in California provided the controlled substances in boxes and a bag, which Gonzalez transported in his 2009 Freightliner semitractor-trailer. He also admitted that he knew the boxes and bag contained a controlled substance but believed it was only cocaine.
Gonzalez communicated by cellphone with his co-conspirator, who directed him to a parking lot in Bluefield. There, Gonzalez gave the bag to another person and loaded the boxes into their vehicle. He admitted that the person gave him a box that he believed contained the cash, and that he intended to deliver the money to his co-conspirator upon his return to California.
Gonzalez attempted to drive away from the transaction in his semitractor-trailer, but law enforcement officials pulled him over. He notified his co-conspirator by phone during the traffic stop. Officers seized his cellphone and a loaded 9mm pistol that was in the truck’s cab.
Gonzalez admitted that he previously delivered boxes from California containing a controlled substance around January 2023 to the individual in Bluefield at his co-conspirator’s direction. Gonzalez admitted that he received cash for the transaction that he took back to California and delivered to the co-conspirator.
Goode-Harper obtained 7 ounces of methamphetamine from another co-defendant at the co-defendant’s residence in Charleston on Jan. 25, 2023. Goode-Harper admitted that he arranged the purchase with the co-defendant in advance over a series of phone calls. Goode-Harper also admitted that he had asked to purchase 10 ounces of methamphetamine for a customer, but that the co-defendant told him that he had only 7 ounces available.
Gonzalez is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 4, 2024, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and up to a lifetime of supervised release. He must also pay a $1 million fine. Goode-Harper is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 8, 2024, and faces a maximum penalty of four years in prison followed by one year of supervised release and must pay a $250,000 fine.
Gonzalez and Goode-Harper are among 32 individuals indicted as a result of Operation Smoke and Mirrors, a major drug trafficking investigation that has yielded the largest methamphetamine seizure in West Virginia history. Law enforcement officials seized more than 400 pounds of methamphetamine, 40 pounds of cocaine, 3 pounds of fentanyl, 19 firearms and $935,000 in cash.
21 defendants have pleaded guilty. Indictments against the remaining defendants are pending.
This investigation was conducted by HSI Charleston; FBI Charleston; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team; the West Virginia State Police; the West Virginia National Guard Counter Drug program; the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office; the Charleston Police Department; the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. The Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team comprises the Charleston Police Department, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, the Nitro Police Department, the St. Albans Police Department and the South Charleston Police Department.
The investigation was part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and is the keystone of the Department of Justice’s drug reduction strategy. OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations, transnational criminal organizations and money laundering organizations that present a significant threat to the public safety, economic or national security of the United States.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.