An Evanston Township High School alum was indicted last week as part of a suspected methamphetamine trafficking ring that spans both coasts and includes a former Catholic priest from Connecticut, authorities say.
Chad McCluskey, 43, who now lives in San Clemente, Calf., hails from Evanston and graduated from the high school in 1988, according to his Facebook page. Along with four other individuals, McCluskey was indicted last week on charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, following a joint investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Connecticut State Police’s Statewide Narcotics Task Force.
According to a statement released by United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut David B. Fein, the methamphetamine distribution ring was spearheaded by former Connecticut priest Kevin Wallin, who received "bulk quantities" of the drug, more commonly known as crystal meth, shipped from California to his Connecticut apartment. Wallin allegedly re-packed the drug and sold it locally to users and other dealers.
Wallin, who apparently was addicted to the drug himself, was pulling in thousands of dollars a week in sales, used multiple cell phones and accomplices to avoid detection, and sought to purchase a Connecticut porn store and sex shop to launder the profits, according to a sworn affidavit by DEA Agent Jay Salvatore.
He had resigned from a post with the Bridgeport, CT, diocese in June 2011 and was granted sabbatical in July after he told church officials that he was "struggling with a number of health and personal issues," according to a release from the diocese.
Fein said the investigation, which lasted months, included the use of court-authorized wire taps, physical surveillance, informants and undercover officers who made controlled purchases of the drug and inserted themselves into Wallin's circle.
The indictment charges each of the five individuals with one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine, and 50 grams of actual methamphetamine. Besides Wallin and McCluskey, the others charged include Kenneth Devries, also known as “Lyme,” 52, of Waterbury, CT; Michael Nelson, 40, of Manchester, CT; and Kristen Laschober, 47, of Laguna Nigel, CA.
The indictment also charges Wallin with six counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
Authorities say that McCluskey and Laschober—who are listed as “in a relationship” with each other on Facebook—were Wallin's suppliers in California. They would FedEx him large quantities of the drug, sometimes multiple ounces at a time, and Wallin would re-package it and sell it locally, according to the affidavit. Wallin would then pay McCluskey and Laschober by depositing money into a series of accounts to which they had access. Around December of 2012, Wallin, McCluskey and Laschober began to disagree on exactly how much of the drug they shipped to Wallin and how much money he owned them in return; each apparently kept different spreadsheets detailing the transactions.
During a "lengthy" phone conversation Wallin had with Nelson, of Manchester, on Dec. 16, 2012, Wallin recounted the issues he was having with McCluskey and Laschober in trying to square their divergent accountings, according to the affidavit. It is the only recorded conversation where Wallin discusses his suppliers by name and details his distribution business; it is also the only time Nelson is mentioned in the affidavit.
McCluskey and Laschober were arrested on criminal complaints in Las Vegas, NV, on Jan. 10, 2013. All five defendants are currently detained, and the investigation is ongoing, according to authorities.
If convicted of the charge of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine, and 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, each of the defendants faces a minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years, a maximum term of imprisonment of life and a fine of up to $10 million.
If convicted of the charge of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, Wallin faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million on each count.