Detective Mark Deshaies (l.) and Sgt. Gary Hensler of the FWPD Gang & Violent Crimes Unit discuss a recent drug bust and what it means for Fort Wayne

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The arrest of a small time fentanyl kingpin last week left officers with the Fort Wayne Police Department satisfied with the catch.

After all, they’d been watching Kevin Jones for years and knew at least one of his victims. A couple of Jones’ associates – Jacob S. Hoffman, 23, and Daylon Rowe, 27, were nabbed the same day in a separate incident, according to officers involved in the investigation. The arrests took 10,000 fake Percocet/deadly fentanyl pills off the streets.

But they’re not kidding themselves that this will end the scourge of fentanyl that last year claimed the lives of 170 people in Fort Wayne alone. With toxicology tests pending, it looks as though that number will stay the same. That doesn’t count the 1,700 non-fatal overdoses treated by police, fire and EMS, said Detective Marc Deshaies, a member of FWPD’s Gang and Violent Crimes Unit.

The Gang Unit, Vice & Narcotics, street officers and the Allen County Sheriff’s Department work hand in hand to take down the dealers and bring people back from the dead with a dose of NARCAN, a nasally administered drug that officers say brings people back from the dead.

Deshaies, Sgt. Gary Hensler, also of the Gang Unit, and Detective Sgt. Mark Gerardot of Vice & Narcotics met with WANE 15 Tuesday to put into perspective the importance of this arrest that will remove 5,000 fake Percocet/fentanyl pills from the streets on a weekly and biweekly basis and the maddeningly elusive web of suppliers and dealers that make it so difficult to halt this threat.

Up to 30 drug dealers sell the deadly fake Percocet pills, not to mention doctored low quality cocaine “for a kick”

There are probably anywhere from a couple of dozen to 30 dealers on the scale of Jones here, pushing the tiny pills that can come in a variety of colors with varying amounts of fentanyl inside them. According to an individual’s tolerance, less than 2 milligrams can be deadly, making each pill “a pill that can kill,” a phrase seen on local billboards attempting to warn users and family of the threat.

Fort Wayne is flooded with these pills, says Deshaies.

“There are hundreds of thousands of these pills entering the Fort Wayne market every couple of weeks. There’s such a glut.” It used to be the pills cost around $15 to $25 a piece. Now the price is down to around $5 to $6 a pill.

“They’re $2 if you’ve got a good source,” says Gerardot.

Jones case becomes a federal case, sending a message to other dealers

Though it’s not the dent the public or police might hope for, investigators hope Jones’ arrest sends a chilling message out there now that Jones’ case was turned over to the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana.

“The fact that the feds are able to come in and interdict and take cases like that, it has a much more chilling effect,” Deshaies said. “What happens, it puts everyone on notice that these investigations could now give you mandatory minimums.”  

The mandatory minimum sentence is based on drug quantity, and Jones was caught with more than 5,000 pills totaling 516 grams. Jones’ 11 guns and drugs charges filed by the state were reduced to one charge for “knowingly possessing with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, including 400 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance.”

Although Hoffman and Rowe remain in state custody, their bail is high. Hoffman is at the Allen County Jail in lieu of $632,000 bail, and Rowe has a bail of $200,000.

It’s not just the pills that contain fentanyl, those interviewed said. Fentanyl is now being added to low quality cocaine to give it “a kick.”

It was Deshaies who arrested Jones during a traffic stop Jan. 17 around 3 p.m. after a first traffic stop Jan. 7 where officers located loose powder residue and two pills containing fentanyl in a shoe box in a 2009 Hummer registered to Jones. Suspiciously, the license plate was obscured and Jones wasn’t able to provide his Indiana driver’s license, registration and insurance at that time.

In the federal complaint, it says officers set up surveillance at Jones’ home at 6204 Pheasant Pass and on Jan. 17, watched as he got into a 2012 Dodge Challenger, registered to his name. He checked out his surroundings, then went back into the home to get a black backpack.  

An Indiana State Police trooper tried to catch up to Jones, who turned into a parking lot on Maplecrest Road and accelerated as he went around a building. When he came around the back of the building, investigators saw his backpack caught in the driver’s side door and dragging on the ground.

Doing 100 miles an hour, Jones led officers on a pursuit, his backpack still dragging on the ground as he weaved through traffic.

Then Jones, 26, tried to go through a Fort Wayne residential neighborhood where officers blocked his path until he stopped in the backyard of a home. Police believe Jones didn’t realize the backpack was still attached to the car.

When officers picked up the backpack, a few small round blue pills imprinted with M-30 fell out of a hole on to the ground. Inside the backpack were several large sandwich baggies that contained 1,000 loose M-30 pills, samples of which tested for fentanyl.

Three more sandwich baggies contained nearly 84 grams of cocaine. Officers found digital scales normally used for weighing drugs for sale and a Cashapp Visa card with Jones name on it.

During a police interview, Jones said he’d been selling M-30 fentanyl pills for about three years and his customer base averaged about 100 pills per transaction. Jones said he purchased 5,000 pills every two weeks for resale and personal consumption along with the cocaine with the same use in mind.

A probable cause affidavit written by Deshaies described a search of Jones’ home where his three children and their mother resided. Police found a Romarm/CUGIR, mini Draco pistol in his upstairs music studio and a Glock .357 stashed in the insulation of the attic. He claimed possession of both guns. Methamphetamine was found in the music studio and provisions for packaging drugs and a knife covered in powder for cutting hard drug material. 

Police made the discovery of a loaded AK pistol, chambered with a live round, placed on a 3-foot high shelf where children could reach it, court documents said.

Most drug dealers don’t manufacture anymore; supply is cheap

Few drug dealers press their own pills, but Gerardot said a few years ago when local dealers decided to do their own pressing, that was when the overdose problem started to explode.

“Mexico had pretty good quality control,” but not so much the local drug dealers who got sloppy.

Tips had been coming in on Jones for years, but gathering enough material for a probable cause and arrest is not as easy as it might seem.

“Everything is fair game,” Deshaies said. Anonymous tips are beneficial, but don’t hold the same weight as tips from people who say their names or reliable sources who have a high level of credibility.

“There’s a big difference between knowing it and proving it,” Deshaies said, giving the example of one victim. “Maybe we all know who killed her son, but we have to succinctly say this happened at this date under penalty of perjury.”

Angry calls from residents saying “why aren’t you guys taking care of this drug dealer,” are made, but officers want to know “what can you tell us to close that gap? Sometimes we get citizens’ help, willing to give you that name to further that pipeline.” FWPD received 30 tips on Jones over the years, Hensler said.

What is the mindset behind these dealers who sells pills knowing they kill?

“They’re emboldened,” Deshaies said. “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

Deshaies said there was an overdose at Jones’ house. Medics had to be called.

“It happened, even in his own circle. He’s creating death and destruction, it’s ancillary.”

Hensler said during an investigation, it can be kind of game of luck.

“Dirtbags have to be lucky every single time,” Hensler said. “We only have to get lucky once. He’s (Jones) gotten lucky for four years.”

It’s not their goal to pick on the low level user; the end goal is to get to the source, the supplier and move up the chain.

But sometimes the individual with “one tiny crack rock, or one syringe with a little bit of dope, while it may not be in the best interest to persecute that person, put him or her in jail and incarcerate, sometimes those people will help us go up the ladder, help develop information that gets you to the top of the ladder,” Deshaies said.

Gerardot is a student of the opioid pandemic and sees it in scope far bigger than Fort Wayne. Working with federal Drug Task Force officers, local officers work on big cases that “span not just Fort Wayne but other states. You have to look at it like a spider web.”

Two major drug cartels distribute through Fort Wayne and the network is massive, Gerardot said. “It’s never going to end.”

Hensler says his officers have to put up their best fight here. Jones was upper level but also did street level deals.

“If we can’t prove things, we can’t make it up. Kevin Jones was just a culmination of time for more information to come down the line,” Deshaies said.