Out of Monday’s eight arraignments in U.S. District Court in Brunswick, one thing became clear — no one knows the location of Susan Anderson.
The woman who is at the top of the federal government’s indictment of an alleged methamphetamine and firearms conspiracy run out of Brantley County is nowhere to be found, and if her husband’s attorney is to be believed, she has not been around Southeast Georgia in quite some time.
Defense attorney Alan David Tucker, representing Robert Ira Anderson, said she had not been living at the couple’s home for around 10 months before authorities arrested his client. Moreover, Tucker said the light in which Ira Anderson sits is mostly the doing of Susan.
“He’s an innocent man,” Tucker said.
Earlier in the hearing, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Bobby Banks explained how the couple drove up to the metro Atlanta area and bought 10 pounds of methamphetamine from a Latino group already under investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Clayton County law enforcement apprehended the Andersons as they traveled through that county, but both sides stipulated charges against Ira Anderson were not moving forward in Clayton County Superior Court.
“We have allegedly 10 pounds (of meth) in Clayton County that had been dead-docketed,” Tucker said, alluding that the significant amount of meth did not otherwise presently factor in an active case.
But, Ira Anderson, 66, was at home when agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, GBI and local law enforcement executed a search warrant at his residence in which they found and he assisted in revealing secret under-floor compartments in September 2016 that turned up two pounds of meth, six firearms and thousands of dollars in cash.
Also, when authorities arrested him at his residence last week, Banks said they found three more firearms, one of which had its serial number filed off. Among other marks on his record, Ira Anderson pleaded guilty to distribution of methamphetamine in U.S. District Court in Brunswick in 1997, receiving a sentence of five years in prison, three years supervised release, 250 hours community service and $12,550 in fines and fees. As a condition of that conviction, he is barred from possessing a firearm.
Susan Anderson also pleaded guilty in 1997, but to aiding and abetting conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distributing a controlled substance, receiving a sentence of 11 years and three months in federal prison, along with five years supervised release and a $100 mandatory special assessment.
Presently, it’s Ira — not Susan — shouldering most of the charges. Ira Anderson faced counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distributing more than 50 grams of meth, possession with intent to distribute meth, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.
Susan Anderson is charged with the conspiracy count along with two counts of distribution of methamphetamine. Banks did say, however, investigators believe she ran one of the two major meth distribution networks within the conspiracy, along with Anthony Joseph Parse.
Parse, 31, suffered third-degree burns across about 25 percent of his body in an industrial accident at Brunswick Cellulose for which he reportedly received a settlement of nearly $2 million. However, his wife said he spent months in treatment for his burns in Augusta before returning home. During his detention hearing, she also testified as to knowledge of his struggles with addiction to painkillers and later, issues with cocaine and meth use.
Banks said Parse was at the wheel with co-defendant Grover Herrin at his side in November 2016 when he fled from a Georgia State Patrol trooper attempting a traffic stop, at one point outrunning law enforcement with speeds topping 150 mph before eventually wrecking his vehicle. Herrin told investigators he bailed from the vehicle while it was in motion before the crash.
Banks also testified investigators set up recently with Parse for him to turn himself in to the county sheriff’s office, but he never showed. Later, they were able to reestablish contact and Parse agreed to turn himself in Monday morning, but events took a turn Sunday night.
His wife said she drove behind him as Parse rode his motorcycle on the way to sell it, in the hopes of raising money for bond — misunderstanding as federal courts do not operate on bond the same way as state Superior Courts. During the ride, Parse lost control of his motorcycle and suffered a significant, visible injury to his right forearm.
The state trooper at the site discovered the federal warrant for Parse’s arrest, and notified the ATF case agent to meet him at the hospital. However, while being questioned, Parse struggled with the ATF agent and the trooper in what investigators said was an attempt to flee, getting a noticeable amount of blood on both the agent and trooper.
Indeed, Parse showed visible discomfort throughout the three-hour process in court on Monday, and bleeding from the injuries on his right arm was to such a degree it went through the bandage and paper towels had to be fetched to deal with the problem.
Parse, 31, faces the conspiracy charge and one count of possession with intent to distribute meth. Herrin, 48, who investigators said worked closely with Parse, faces counts of conspiracy, distribution of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Also included in the conspiracy are two more defendants with family connections — James Robbin Belch, 58, and his stepson, Charles Merkle, 41. Banks said Merkle played a kind of middle-man, driving Belch to pick up product and arranging deals with him. Banks noted investigators have a recording of Merkle calling Belch during an alleged controlled buy of meth in July 2016.
Belch and Merkle are both charged with conspiracy and distribution of meth, though because of Merkle’s lack of a criminal history and relatively stable home life with his girlfriend, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stan Baker granted Merkle’s request for pretrial release on bond.
Lemuel Glenn Henderson, 48, attempted to receive bond for pretrial release because he is his 82-year-old aunt’s sole caregiver, and she provides required assistance for him because he is illiterate. However, Henderson’s lengthy criminal history — including a number of arrests for allegedly assaulting his second wife in front of children — and allegedly lying to his aunt to get her to give him her .22-caliber rifle, which he then allegedly traded for 3.5 grams of meth, lent significant weight in denying his bond request. Henderson is charged with conspiracy and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Karen Moody, 48, is charged with conspiracy and two counts of meth distribution, but for Superior Court charges related to the matter, is going through a drug court program, living with her daughter and holding down a regular job in food service. Because of her reliable work history and repeated clean drug tests, Moody received her pretrial release.
Another defendant, Kenneth Williams, 55, had a state probation violation warrant and as such, a federal detention hearing would have been moot. Williams is charged with conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute meth and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The conspiracy charge on its own carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and five years on supervised release, along with the $100 mandatory special assessment.
Banks said federal authorities first clued onto the alleged conspiracy after receiving word of a major effort in trading firearms for meth, which is what brought the ATF into the case with the GBI.
Baker scheduled the motions hearing in the case for 10 a.m. Oct. 3.