Indictment: This Iowa day care operator supplied fentanyl and heroin to a dealer in Virginia Beach

The owner of an Iowa day care center has been indicted in federal court in Norfolk for allegedly conspiring to distribute heroin and the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Latosha Prather, 36, of Des Moines, was indicted Wednesday on 10 felonies. Court records don’t list a defense attorney.

The indictment says Prather, who operated a home-based child daycare service in Des Moines, supplied “large amounts” of fentanyl and heroin to a Virginia Beach drug dealer, Michelle Best.

Best was sentenced earlier this year to 30 years in federal prison on charges that she led a large-scale drug ring responsible for at least one fatal overdose.

Prather supplied Best with multiple kilograms of fentanyl and heroin from her home in September 2017. In January 2018, Prather traveled from Des Moines to Virginia Beach where she sold another kilogram of heroin and fentanyl to Best in a Walmart parking lot located off Virginia Beach Boulevard, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

To date, authorities have traced at least $65,000 in cash deposits from Best to Prather.

Prather is charged with 10 counts, including conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and heroin, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, and various distribution and possession with intent to distribute charges. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

According to the indictment, in December 2017, a woman died after overdosing from fentanyl supplied directly by Christopher Bardall. That fentanyl was traced to Bardall’s supplier, Darin Milligan, who got it from Best, prosecutors said.

Bardall, 34, was sentenced in April to more than 11 years in prison. Prosecutors said Bardall sold at least 550 grams of fentanyl, which could translate to approximately 5,500 individual doses.

Bardall was a street dealer who sold fentanyl, supplied by Best, directly to the woman who died. Bardall knew the fentanyl he was dealing was strong and that it had resulted in multiple overdoses by clients of his who used it, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

On Dec. 17, 2017, within hours of the woman’s coma and death, Virginia Beach Police officers found Bardall and arrested him following a vehicle and foot pursuit.

Best

Michelle Best (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Western Tidewater Regional Jail)
Michelle Best (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Western Tidewater Regional Jail)

Court records indicated Best, also known as Michelle Smith, dealt cocaine, heroin and the synthetic-opioid fentanyl from her home in the Croatan neighborhood from 2016 until her March 2018 arrest.

“Best was dealing death from the comforts of her beach-front neighborhood,” Terwilliger said. “Heroin and fentanyl do not discriminate across economic boundaries, and nor do we. We will remain vigilant in our pursuit of drug dealers who pump poison into our communities, no matter who they are or where they are.

Local police and DEA investigators later learned Bardall got his supply of fentanyl from co-conspirator Milligan, who in turn got his fentanyl from his regional supplier, Best.

Milligan has pleaded guilty to his role in the drug ring. Information on a disposition on his case was not immediately available.

Best knew the drugs she was distributing were strong and had resulted in multiple overdoses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

When she learned of the overdose death, she told Milligan to keep the information to himself and that it would be “business as usual.”

According to court documents, police raided her home in March 2018 and found drugs, a ledger detailing past purchases and about $42,000 in cash. Best was charged in 2005 but never convicted in connection with the death of her husband, 27-year-old Alexander M. Smith. He disappeared in 2000.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.