6 plead guilty to federal meth charges

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Five Fayette County residents and a former resident of the county pleaded guilty in federal court to a methamphetamine offense.

A. Courtney Cox, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said on Monday that four of the individuals pleaded guilty on Thursday, and the two others entered guilty pleas on Friday.

Pleading guilty to a county of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess 500 grams or more of methamphetamine with the intent to deliver were:

• Thomas E. Wilkerson, 47, Shobonier.

• David M. Fickes, 40, Effingham and formerly of Fayette County.

• Billy D. York, 50, Vandalia.

• Wesley Dean Conner, 44, Vandalia.

• Donald R. Schultz, 52, Vandalia

• David M. Murray, 55, Ramsey.

Cox said that all six men are scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. on Feb. 20.

The statutory penalty applicable to Wilkerson and Fickes is 20 years to life in prison. The sentencing range for York, Schultz and Murray is 10 years to life in prison, and Conner faces a prison sentence of five to 40 years.

Wilkerson also pleaded guilty to possession of products with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine. That offense carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

According to the superseding indictment and other court documents, Cox said, the methamphetamine conspiracy operated in and around Fayette, Clinton and Madison counties, and elsewhere in the Southern District of Illinois, between May 2004 and November 2006.

The investigation into methamphetamine manufacturing activity was conducted primarily by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, and was conducted in cooperation with Fayette County State’s Attorney Stephen Friedel.

This investigation was conducted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods DRAGUN Team Initiative, a cooperative of local, state and federal law enforcement, and state and federal prosecuting authorities, aimed at ridding communities of illegal drugs and guns.