Law enforcement targets drug trafficking

By: 

An Oconto County Circuit Court judge set bail for Alex Vandenhoven at $25,000 cash. (Oconto County Jail photo)

A saturation patrol conducted Oct. 6 in northern Oconto County resulted in several arrests, including the apprehension of a suspect wanted for sexual assault in Illinois and a drug suspect from Green Bay who had cut off his ankle bracelet the day before.

Sheriff Mike Jansen said his office and multiple law enforcement partners conducted the “high-intensity interdiction” as part of their ongoing opiate reduction efforts.

“The initiative was designed to meet the following goals: make Oconto County safer for our citizens; detect and arrest illegal drug users and sellers; promote public awareness of the dangers of drugged driving; most importantly, demonstrate to the citizens of Oconto County that its law enforcement agencies care about the drug epidemic affecting them,” Jansen said. “We are united in our commitment to eradicate it.”

According to a criminal complaint, Suring Police Chief Phillip Christensen and Lena Police Chief James Herald were riding together as part of the special detail when they stopped a vehicle that had been going 70 mph in a 55 mph zone on state Highway 64 in the town of Doty.

They ran the license, and it came back to Rocky D. Ponton, 42, of Lakewood, who was wanted in Kankakee County, Illinois, on three counts of sexual assault. The alert from the Kankakee sheriff said Ponton should be considered armed and dangerous.

Extradition proceedings were initiated, and Ponton had a date in Kankakee County Court on Monday, according to Oconto County Circuit Court records.

Also part of the saturation patrol, Oconto County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Christensen stopped a car going 50 mph in a 35 mph zone in Townsend. According to the complaint, the driver sped up to 65 mph after Christensen put on his lights — still in the 35 mph zone — before stopping.

Three people were in the car, and so were quantities of oxycodone, heroin and THC that were discovered after a K-9 officer alerted on the car, criminal complaints say.

The suspects included a man who identified himself as “Darrel Hanna” but later was discovered to be James Anthony Larock, 20, of Green Bay.

When asked why he lied to the officer, Larock said “he believed he had a warrant because he was on an ankle bracelet that he cut off the day prior,” according to the criminal complaint. He was charged with possession with intent to deliver heroin, possession with intent to deliver narcotics, and misdemeanor possession of THC.

Oconto County Circuit Court Judge Michael T. Judge set bond at $15,000 cash and scheduled the balance of Larock’s initial appearance for Nov. 9.

As for his traveling companions, Kaylynn Samplaski, 22, of Wabeno, and Alex James Vandenhoven, 24, of Green Bay, Judge set bail at $25,000 each and also ordered them back into court Nov. 9.

Both Samplaski and Vandenhoven are charged with possession with intent to deliver heroin (second or subsequent offense), possession with intent to deliver narcotic drugs (second or subsequent offense), and possession of THC (second or subsequent offense).

Jansen said the saturation patrol used “proactive vehicle interdiction in designated locations and ‘hot spot’ areas known for drug activity, use and sales.” About 40 contacts were initiated for various traffic violations.

“We must work tirelessly to eradicate dangerous drugs from our community,” Jansen said. “High-visibility law enforcement details, such as this one, send a clear message to the drug dealers in our community: You are not welcome here. Still, much needs to be done, but we will not rest until the job is complete.”

Agencies assisting the Oconto County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the Northeast Tri-County Drug Enforcement Group included: the Oconto Falls, Gillett, Lena and Suring police departments; the Marinette, Florence, Forest and Shawano sheriff’s departments; the Wisconsin State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation; and the Green Bay office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Jansen said.