Randy Yohe Published

‘Operation Smoke And Mirrors’: Largest Methamphetamine Seizure In State History

Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is shown in a closeup.
A photograph of methamphetamine or crystal meth.
Kaesler Media/Adobe Stock

A major illegal drug bust announced Monday includes more than two dozen defendants from West Virginia, Virginia and Georgia who have pleaded guilty to wholesale distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl.  

Dubbed “Operation Smoke and Mirrors,’ Southern District U.S. Attorney Will Thompson said dismantling the illegal drug network took unprecedented teamwork by local, state and federal law enforcement.

“That’s the story of this case,” Thompson said. “We’ve gotten past where people used to battle over what’s my turf, not your turf, people are really working together now. We’ve had the FBI and DEA agents working hand in hand, which when they do and then when they pool their resources, we can get incredible results such as this.” 

Illegal drugs seized in the operation include more than 400 pounds of methamphetamine, 40 pounds of cocaine, 3 pounds of fentanyl, 19 firearms and nearly $1 million in cash.  

Thompson said it has become a law enforcement cliche that drug seizures much less than this would “make a dent” in local supply and demand. He said he wouldn’t be presumptuous, but this bust will “have an impact.”

“You just look at the sheer numbers, the amount that has been taken off the streets,” Thomson said. “We’ve probably saved families, we probably saved people from overdoses. It’s not like you’re taking off a street level drug dealer, he’s replaced the next day. It’s taking some time for these people to get replaced, and we’re working some other operations trying to get the replacements as well. And I think we’re going to be pretty successful on that.”

The announcement comes after the May 2 sentencing of Jasper Wemh, 39, of Charleston, to 16 years and eight months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. 

According to court documents and statements made in court, Wemh is responsible for more than 85 pounds of methamphetamine distributed in 2022. Wemh routinely completed transactions involving multiple pounds at a time, and sold more than 20 pounds of methamphetamine during a single night on Dec. 4, 2022. Wemh stored quantities of methamphetamine, crack and cocaine at a Greenbrier Street residence in Charleston.

Thompson said Wehm was one of a handful of kingpins in a loosely knit network of drug wholesalers.

“There are some significant players,” he said. “This wasn’t one individual, this was a network that worked together. We’re not completely done with all the charges. There are several people who’ve not been to trial yet, but we’ve gotten some significant sentences out of the people who have been found guilty thus far.”

Thompson said “Operation Smoke and Mirrors” is far from finished, and the “final installment will be quite a story.”

Click here for a listing of law enforcement agencies involved and those sent to prison, their charges and sentences.