MARQUETTE — Seven people will spend multiple years in prison after a multi-agency investigation brought down a major criminal crystal meth trafficking operation in the Western Upper Peninsula.
“This case involved the biggest crystal methamphetamine seizure in the U.P. – that we know of in the history of the U.P., and [the] second most significant thing about it is, it effectively shut down the crystal methamphetamine market in the Western part of the Upper Peninsula,” said Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Michigan’s Criminal Divison, Maarten Vermaat.
Over four hundred grams of 99.9% pure crystal meth trafficked from Las Vegas were seized from the residence of 39-year-old Ironwood native Richard Jon Hill during a two-year long joint investigation by the Gogebic-Iron Area Narcotics Team and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Hill, known in the Ironwood area as “Rock Star Rick,” will spend fifteen years in federal prison on drug trafficking charges.
Six other individuals will also be spending multiple years in prison in relation to the conspiracy that officials say involved at least $200,000 worth of crystal meth.
“None of these defendants went to trial,” Vermaat added, “and they didn’t go to trial because I had great evidence, and that’s really the key. The reason you get that is because the agencies are working together. They’re sharing information. They’re working together on controlled buys. They’re working together on search warrants. They’re sitting down and talking to each other and thinking their way through what’s going on in the case and what evidence they should have.”
Law enforcement is hopeful that the removal of this source of meth will have positive repercussions on the community.
“This seizure was so large that it actually affected the supply of meth for that part of Michigan,” said Rich Isaacson, Special Agent and Public Information Officer from the U.S. DEA’s Detroit Field Division.
“Assault investigations, breaking and entering investigations, larceny investigations, domestic violence investigations, so many of them have a drug component to it,” said First Lieutenant Clint Michelin, Michigan State Police Negaunee Post Commander. “So our narcotics investigation and combating the use of illegal drugs is really critical to [the] quality of life in our communities.”
“You’re talking two hundred, three hundred thousand dollars that’s coming right out of the community and going somewhere else to pay for those drugs,” said Vermaat. “Hopefully that money will stay home or be put to more productive uses, and hopefully those people can will be able to get off drugs. That’s what we want to have happen.”
“When you start dealing with a drug as addictive as methamphetamine, the people that we’ve dealt with in this case and other cases – the smaller ones on the outside – you start talking with these people then afterwards, and they realize that if it wasn’t for us stepping into their lives, their lives wouldn’t have changed and they would have probably ended up killing their [selves] accidentally later on,” said Officer Matthew Sterbenz of Ironwood Public Safety, the lead investigator in this case. “People actually come up to you later on – people that you’ve arrested, people that you’ve sent to prison or jail – and they actually thank you and shake your hand, and they truly mean it.”
The following is a complete list of those convicted provided by the office of U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr.:
- Richard Jon Hill, a/k/a “Rock Star Rick,” age 39, sentenced to 180 months in federal prison.
- Joshua Aaron Anderson, age 32 of Ironwood, sentenced to 151 months in federal prison.
- David Anthony Tristan, age 46 of Bullhead City, Arizona, sentenced to 87 months in federal prison.
- Anthony Peter Giovanoni, age 37 of Hurley, Wisconsin, sentenced to 120 months in federal prison.
- Vickie Marie Sporleder, age 48 of Rockland, sentenced to 63 months in federal prison.
- Jack Michael Ribich, age 33 of Ironwood, sentenced to 97 months in federal prison.
- Rebecca Jean Suzik, age 39 of Ironwood, sentenced to 24 months in federal prison.