Western U.P. Crystal Meth Conspiracy Shut Down
Las Vegas connection uncovered by joint GIANT-DEA investigation
MARQUETTE, Mich. - Richard Jon Hill, age 39, known in the Ironwood, Michigan area as “Rock Star Rick,” was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison for his conviction on federal drug charges. The sentence represents the culmination of a two-year investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA) and the Gogebic-Iron Area Narcotics (GIANT). The joint investigation led to seven federal convictions, sentences measured by years and even decades, and the complete dismantling of a major criminal drug trafficking operation.
Hill, a 1994 graduate of Luther L. Wright High School in Ironwood, moved to Las Vegas in about 2000 and became a heavy methamphetamine user. He returned to Ironwood in 2012, but maintained his connections in Las Vegas. Soon he was traveling back to Las Vegas to pick up drugs that he would sell in Ironwood. To minimize the risk of traveling with large amounts of methamphetamine, he enlisted friends and associates to receive packages that he had shipped from Las Vegas. Hill would collect these packages, use some of the methamphetamine himself, and sell the rest in order to finance his next trip to Las Vegas. This became a lucrative cycle driven by Hill and his friends and associates that helped spread a methamphetamine epidemic across the Western Upper Peninsula.
By the fall of 2013, GIANT - a multi-agency task force fighting drug trafficking in the western part of the Upper Peninsula and the Hurley, Wisconsin area - had identified Hill as a significant supplier of methamphetamine. Officers assigned to GIANT arranged for several undercover purchases of methamphetamine from Hill. These undercover buys gave the officers the evidence they needed to get a search warrant for the residence Hill shared with Rebecca Jean Suzik. There, GIANT officers found more than 400 grams of crystal methamphetamine that was 99.9% pure and more than $20,000 in cash. Methamphetamine is commonly sold on the street in quarter and half gram quantities, so the amount seized from Hill and Suzik’s residence alone represented more than a thousand units and had an estimated street value of $40,000. As a whole, the conspiracy involved at least $200,000 worth of methamphetamine.
GIANT officers then partnered with DEA agents in Marquette in order to investigate and pursue appropriate charges against the people working with Hill. An extensive investigation of travel records, text messages and shipping records led to the identification of several co-conspirators in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Hurley, Wisconsin, as well as Hill’s source in Las Vegas. A series of federal charges followed over the next year and a half.
The following individuals were ultimately convicted of drug trafficking charges and sentenced in federal court in Marquette:
- Richard Jon Hill, - a/k/a “Rock Star Rick,” age 39, sentenced to 180 months in federal prison.
- Joshua Aaron Anderson - , age 32, of Ironwood, sentenced to 151 months in federal prison.
- David Anthony Tristan, - age 46, of Bullhead City, Arizona, sentenced to 87 months in federal prison.
- Anthony Peter Giovanoni, - age 37, of Hurley, Wisconsin, sentenced to 120 months in federal prison.
- Vickie Marie Sporleder, - age 48, of Rockland, Michigan, sentenced to 63 months in federal prison.
- Jack Michael Ribich - , age 33, of Ironwood, sentenced to 97 months in federal prison.
- Rebecca Jean Suzik - , age 39, of Ironwood, sentenced to 24 months in federal prison.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph P. Reagan, who is responsible for DEA operations in all of Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky, said “Methamphetamine is a major threat to communities across the nation, and northern Michigan is no exception. Meth use and addiction is a threat to every community, and the dismantling of this drug distribution conspiracy is a victory for the safety and well-being of the people of the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin. This investigation was successful thanks to solid police work and strong cooperation between local, state, and federal law enforcement.”
U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr. said “This dismantling of a destructive drug trafficking operation and the significant convictions and sentences are a credit to the joint law enforcement operation undertaken by GIANT and the DEA. Richard Hill and his coconspirators preyed on the citizens of the U.P. Methamphetamine is highly addictive, and drug addiction not only ravages the addict but tears at the fabric of families and communities. Trips to Las Vegas and a catchy nickname sound glamorous, but Richard Hill’s next destination is far from glamorous and he will now have to answer to the number the Bureau of Prisons assigns to him.”
Chris Colassaco, the current head of GIANT, and a Sergeant with the Hurley Police Department noted that addiction is a problem that affects all cities, towns, villages and townships. “Addiction is a community problem. Addiction not only destroys homes, breaks up families, and ruins lives; it also lowers property values, increases crime rates, and makes communities less desirable places to raise families. The battle to control addiction requires involvement from federal, state, and local government, community leaders, and residents. We encourage residents to get involved and help save your communities from the perils of addiction. Contact your local law enforcement agency with any information no matter how insignificant you feel it may be; it could be the information that makes a difference. With that being said, we would like to thank the residents of Gogebic County and also Iron County, Wisconsin, for their assistance in this case. We would also like to thank all law enforcement, including the officers assigned to the GIANT team, for their dedication and extraordinary effort in the battle against addiction.”