A 35-year-old Missouri man Monday pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge and implicated other co-defendants in a methamphetamine distribution case connected to a 2010 raid east of Lawrence.
Robert D. Billinger entered the plea Monday afternoon in Kansas City, Kan., and admitted that he and co-defendants Donald Milton Steele, Randy Jay Dyke and Anthony Wayne Sims, all of Lawrence, had provided an undercover officer with chemicals with the intent they be used to manufacture meth during a near three-month period starting in November 2009.
Billinger said he loaded chemicals he knew would be used to produce meth into an undercover officer’s vehicle and asked for some of the financial proceeds.
The men were arrested as part of a February 2010 two-day raid at Steele’s residence, 1706 N. 1500 Road. The property was also home to All Seasons Tree Service, a business Steele owned. Steele’s family sold the property, which contained dozens of old cars and trucks, after the raid.
Federal prosecutors have alleged the scheme also involved a Topeka rental property Steele owned and that the defendants created counterfeit money. Kimberly M. Cline of Lawrence also faces charges in the case.
Last October, Sims pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy charge as Billinger, and he awaits a July 18 sentencing. Some facts surrounding Billinger’s guilty plea appear to be at odds with assertions by defense attorneys for Steele and Dyke, who contend investigators engaged in “outrageous conduct.” They claim the undercover officer, not their clients, came up with the plan to manufacture methamphetamine and that officers found no evidence of meth at Steele’s Douglas County property, only small amounts of marijuana, stolen property and a weapon.
“As the audiotapes prove, (Steele) and his co-defendants in no way were involved in methamphetamine production or trafficking until a confidential informant and undercover officer introduced them to the idea,” Steele’s defense attorney Thomas Telhorst wrote in a motion.
The defense also says that from Dec. 30, 2009, to Feb. 17, 2010, Steele engaged in 28 conversations about meth but that the informant and officer initiated all but four of them.
In his plea agreement, Billinger alleged that the topic of manufacturing methamphetamine was first brought up between Steele, the officer and informant on Dec. 30, 2009, but that Steele was preoccupied with programming his cellphone and did not actively participate in the conversation. The informant later told officers Steele had ‘broached the subject” of manufacturing meth as a way of “generating quick money,” according to Billinger’s plea.
Billinger also alleges Steele was involved in plans for getting the operation set up and that Dyke would purchase chemicals to produce the drugs before he and others were arrested in the raid.
Prosecutors agree to seek a reduction under federal sentencing guidelines and to consider Billinger a minor participant. Billinger agreed to provide testimony in the case.