Cumberland Times-News

September 17, 2013

$150k seized in Hampshire drug dealer takedown

Undercover case led by sheriff’s department

MARLA PISCIOTTA
Cumberland Times-News

— ROMNEY, W.Va. — The largest amount of money ever seized in Hampshire County, more than $150,000, will benefit the sheriff’s department and prosecuting attorney’s office, said Dan James, prosecuting attorney.

An undercover case choreographed by the sheriff’s department resulted in seizure of property, an arrest and conviction of a major drug dealer early this year.

Touted as the biggest drug dealer in Hampshire County, Keith Edward Phelps Jr., then 29, was sentenced to up to 40 years in prison on felony drug and stolen property charges by Judge Charles E. Parsons.

Among Phelps’ seized property was $150,683 in cash.

“A little over $100,000 was found in the ceiling of his Jersey Mountain Road home. The remaining money was found in a baby swing,” James said.

Also seized were seven vehicles, a 2004 Nissan 350Z, a second Nissan, a Honda racing motorcycle, a 2005 Ford Focus, a Chevrolet Cobalt, a 2500 Chevrolet pickup truck and a Yamaha ATV, said James.

Phelps had been going to Florida and Winchester, Va., and purchasing vast amounts of drugs, laying out between $25,000 and $30,000 at any given time, James said.

As a result of a plea agreement between Phelps’ attorney and former prosecuting attorney Steve Moreland, Phelps agreed to give up five of the cars seized and two would be returned to him.

No agreement was made on the money, James said.

James said he argued for the 3- to 40-year prison time for Phelps.

On Sept. 10, Phelps was transported from jail to court and a discussion was held on the money.

All parties involved agreed to return $17,500 to Phelps. In return, Phelps had to forfeit the balance of the money after deducting some funds for undercover drug buys spent by the sheriff’s department.

The bottom line reads that the sheriff’s department will get 90 percent of the $132,500, or $119,250, and the prosecuting attorney’s office will get the remaining 10 percent, $13,250.

In addition the five cars were sold at auction for a total of $20,000.

James said 90 percent of that amount, $18,000, goes to the sheriff’s department and $2,000, or 10 percent, goes to his office.

“This is an enormous forfeiture for Hampshire County,” James said.

According to the law, the funds have to be spent on helping to fight against drugs, said James.

James said he is going to use some of the funding to purchase a computer filing system. “We are currently using flash drives for our files.”

Hampshire County Sheriff John Alkire and Chief Deputy Nathan Sions are away for training and could not be reached for comment.