Crime

All four members of Caldwell meth ring are taking guilty pleas

Brian Cluff
Brian Cluff

Two of the four defendants in a methamphetamine supply ring that operated out of a Caldwell Boulevard shop have pleaded guilty while the other two have signaled their intention to change their not-guilty pleas.

Brian W. Cluff, 43, and Raymond Pruneau, 52, of Caldwell, have pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Cluff, a Meridian resident who headed the group, also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Co-defendant Victoria A. Whelan, 54, from Caldwell, said she plans to plead guilty to one count of distribution of meth, according to a plea agreement filed Monday by prosecutors. In the agreement, Whelan, also known as Vickie Adkins, admits selling nearly 34 grams of meth to undercover police officers in two transactions that took place in December and January. She collected $890 during the two sales.

And John Paul Tate, 47, also know as Joseph Ray Aguiar and Joseph Ray Aiguiar, is scheduled to change his plea during an Aug. 17 hearing. Court documents do not indicate which charge or charges he will admit. He is charged with conspiracy and two counts of distribution of methamphetamine.

Cluff and Pruneau each face 10 years to life on the conspiracy charge. Cluff faces an additional five years to life on the firearms charge, served consecutive to the other sentence.

Tate will face a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison and up to life because of a previous meth conspiracy conviction in 1999. He was released from prison on that conviction in June 2012.

In January, undercover police officers met with Cluff at his home in the 4400 block of Heritage Woods Way. Cluff provided one of the officers with nearly 3 grams of meth as a free sample, according to court documents.

Cluff, 43, told the officers he could supply them with a pound of meth at a time, at a price of $6,000.

Days later, officers obtained a pound of meth from Cluff at his Caldwell shop, in the 3300 block of Caldwell Boulevard. They received another half-pound on Jan. 27 and returned to the shop on Feb. 3 to pay the remaining $3,000 for the original pound.

The officers obtained six pounds of meth from Cluff at his shop on Feb. 11. Several other 1-pound packages of meth were found in a trailer at the shop after officers obtained a warrant and carried out a search.

After his arrest, Cluff, who has previous convictions for forgery and possession of a controlled substance, told officers he sold at least a pound of meth per week.

In exchange for Cluff’s guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop four counts of distributing meth and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Prosecutors agreed to drop two counts against Pruneau for possession of meth and cocaine with intent to distribute.

Whelan is also charged with conspiracy and a second charge of distributing meth, both of which are set to be dismissed upon her agreement to plead guilty.

Before he was arrested, Cluff told the undercover officers Pruneau was “one of his best customers” and that he was supplying him with five to 10 pounds of methamphetamine a week, according to court documents.

Pruneau arrived at Cluff’s shop while the undercover officers were there on Jan. 17. The officers were asked to leave while Pruneau, who was carrying a backpack, spoke with Cluff in his office. Cluff later called the officers and had them return to the shop. He told them Pruneau was his partner and he had just brought a pound of methamphetamine to Cluff, who said the two men often helped each other out if they needed more meth.

After he was arrested, Pruneau told police Cluff had supplied him with eight to 10 pounds of methamphetamine during five transactions.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell

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