FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – They would truck kilos of cocaine from Mexico straight into the greater Fort Wayne area for distribution, and at one point police called them the largest drug ring in the northern part of the state.

Thursday, the ring’s leader received 15 years in prison.

Allan L. Bates

A U.S. District Court judge sentenced Allan L. Bates as part of a plea deal he previously made with federal prosecutors, closing a case that uncovered 100 kilos of cocaine and more than $5.9 million in cash during a series of searches in 2015.

Bates lead a group of four others in the network, investigators said. They would bring the kilos cocaine to Fort Wayne and distribute each one individually throughout the area, according to court documents. Police arrested Bates at the U.S.-Mexican border in Texas about a month after a federal jury handed down indictments for him and some of the ring’s members.

Officially, they were charged of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.

A press conference shortly after Bates’ arrest, though, showed the scope of what prosecutors referred to as a wholesale operation thought to be the largest in the area.

The FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force conducted nearly 20 searches during the investigation, finding cocaine with a street value worth about $3 million as well as the nearly $6 million in cash, which was to be largely doled out amongst law enforcement departments as part of forfeiture laws.

Numerous guns and vehicles were seized by the task force, as well.

Other members caught up in the ring pleaded guilty, like Bates did, and have already been sentenced. One man took his case to trial and is now serving a life sentence. The other members of the ring have been identified as:

  • James W. Lepper, then 66, of Butler, sentenced to 60 months time served
  • Eric D. White, then 52, of Fort Wayne, sentenced to 17 1/2 years
  • Ryan Bowman, then 35, of Payne Ohio, sentenced to time served
  • Larry J. Norton, then 63, of Mission, Texas, sentenced to life in prison due to two previous drug felonies

Below: James Lepper, Eric White, Ryan Bowman, Larry Norton

Another man caught in the ring, identified as Dewayne Lewis, was arrested at a Greenwood hotel shortly after a grand jury indicted the men. He admitted in court documents to working for the drug trafficking group, and that he was paid to transport cocaine and drug proceeds.

Lewis told investigators he retrieved about 19 kilos of cocaine and some cash from a pole barn in Butler and took it to Greenwood. A U.S. District Court judge eventually sentenced Lewis to 30 years in prison, according to court records.

Once Bates serves his time in prison, he’s ordered to serve another 10 years on supervised release.