Earlier this year, Tucker Wirfel helped investigators gather evidence against a suspected meth distributor in Cody. Under the supervision of agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal …
Earlier this year, Tucker Wirfel helped investigators gather evidence against a suspected meth distributor in Cody. Under the supervision of agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, Wirfel reportedly made three “controlled buys,” purchasing various quantities of meth from their suspect, Kelly Brainerd.
But by early February, the case had taken a turn: Agents reportedly discovered that Wirfel was not only informing on Brainerd, he was also supplying the suspect with meth.
Specifically, charging documents allege that Wirfel delivered a large quantity of the drug to one of Brainerd’s associates on Feb. 9.
All three of the Cody residents — Wirfel, Brainerd and his associate, Shane Scheid — have since been arrested. Each is now facing the potential of a lengthy prison sentence for their alleged roles in what a prosecutor called “a pretty extensive methamphetamine dealing ring.”
Because he allegedly received hundreds of fentanyl pills through the mail late last year, Wirfel is being prosecuted by federal authorities in Casper on a count of possessing fentanyl with intent to deliver. A judge has ordered Wirfel to remain in custody for the time being.
Meanwhile, Brainerd and Scheid are being held on charges in state court in Park County, with their bonds set at $50,000 and $100,000, respectively.
In addition to facing three delivery charges for his alleged sales to Wirfel, Brainerd faces a count of possession with intent to deliver; it alleges that Brainerd planned to resell the meth that he indirectly received from Wirfel in February.
As for Scheid, he’s charged with conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance, alleging he picked up the meth from Wirfel on Feb. 9 and delivered some to Brainerd. Because Scheid was previously convicted of delivering marijuana, prosecutors are seeking a stiffer sentence.
The first arrests were made in early February, but it took weeks for a more complete picture of the case to emerge in court records — and authorities say the investigation continues.
Pills in a teddy bear
Charging documents trace the case’s origins back to November, when DCI agents received information that Wirfel was distributing drugs in the Cody area. Agents reportedly obtained text messages in which Wirfel appeared to be making arrangements to bring fentanyl pills and meth to Cody from suppliers in California and Cheyenne.
Armed with that and other evidence, DCI obtained a search warrant for Wirfel’s Verizon account in late November, allowing agents then to monitor his communications. In early December, they received messages in which Wirfel appeared to offer to deliver fentanyl if the order was “big enough.”
On Dec. 29, investigators searched Wirfel’s trash and reportedly found the remains of two apparent fentanyl pills and drug paraphernalia. A subsequent, court-approved search of his Kent Avenue apartment allegedly yielded 124 apparent fentanyl pills and a package containing steroids, among other items.
Wirfel agreed to speak with DCI agents, according to an affidavit later prepared by U.S. Postal Service Inspector R.J. Fergon, and said the pills were what remained of an initial shipment of 750 to 1,000 pills; Wirfel told agents he’d used the drugs and “might have sold some,” the affidavit alleges.
Wirfel said the pills had been shipped from Phoenix by a 28-year-old man he’d met in prison and who’d been released to a halfway house in Casper.
The affidavit quotes Wirfel as saying he refused to help the man sell drugs, but that he later received a teddy bear stuffed with fentanyl pills; Wirfel reportedly said he was supposed to pay the man $2,500 for the shipment.
That man has not been charged, though a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming said the case remains under investigation.
Becoming an informant
Following DCI’s search of his home, Wirfel apparently agreed to become an informant for the division, as court records indirectly identify him as CI #43050. On Jan. 3 — just days after agents searched his home — charging documents say Wirfel worked with them to purchase a gram of meth from Brainerd for $60. He did so again on Jan. 6.
Several days later, Brainerd allegedly texted Wirfel to say he’d received a “delivery” and could offer a half-ounce of meth for $450. Wirfel — and the DCI agents — agreed to the deal, and charging documents say he bought the meth in Brainerd’s 36th Street garage on the afternoon of Jan. 12.
It’s unclear from the charging documents how DCI planned to proceed with the case, but the situation escalated in early February. Whether it was coincidental or the result of ongoing surveillance is unclear from court records, but two agents spotted Brainerd’s vehicle on the night of Feb. 9, heading south toward Thermopolis.
In an affidavit, DCI Special Agent Eric Wright said they suspected it was Brainerd on a drug run and asked other law enforcement agencies to develop probable cause and stop the vehicle. That didn’t happen, but a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper reportedly noticed Brainerd’s Camaro at the Gooseberry Creek rest area, parked alongside someone in a black sports car. Authorities ultimately concluded that it was actually Scheid who’d been driving Brainerd’s car, and that he was picking up a large amount of meth from Wirfel.
Hours after the alleged rest area rendezvous, a Cody police officer pulled over Wirfel and his black Lexus for swerving and going well under the speed limit on Bighorn Avenue. The officer wrote in an affidavit that Wirfel appeared to be under the influence of meth and fentanyl and 16 apparent fentanyl-laced pills were found in the vehicle.
When DCI agents interviewed Wirfel later that day, their former informant said he’d acquired meth from “one of his sources in Casper” and sold a half-ounce to Scheid for $600, charging documents allege.
In the affidavit, Agent Wright added that “based on other information received,” DCI agents believe Wirfel “delivered multiple ounces of methamphetamine through Scheid for Brainerd.”
For his part, Brainerd later told DCI agents that he and Scheid had ordered 42 grams of meth from Wirfel, but only received half that amount, court documents say, with Scheid taking 14 grams and Brainerd getting 7.
“Bro,” Brainerd reportedly texted Wirfel on the morning of Feb. 10. “Whenever you get this. 21 gs short [is] a f—ng joke. Hope we can resolve this asap.”
However, Wirfel was in jail, and Brainerd would join him later that day. Agents arrested Brainerd after a search of his home and garage turned up 7 grams of meth, digital scales, baggies and paraphernalia. While allegedly acknowledging the bulk purchase, Brainerd denied selling any meth, charging documents say.
He briefly made bail after posting $15,000, but was rearrested on March 1, when prosecutors filed new charges related to the alleged sales to Wirfel in January.
The stack of charges against Brainerd theoretically carry up to 200 years worth of prison time, though Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield acknowledged that such a stiff sentence “is never going to happen,” particularly given Brainerd’s cooperation.
Still, given the serious nature of the charges and “his persistent dealing in methamphetamine,” Hatfield successfully argued for bond to be set at $50,000 cash.
Brainerd asked for a lower amount, saying it was “extremely difficult” to come up with $15,000.
“It’s innocent without [being] proven guilty, and I’d like a chance or a fighting chance., because the more and more all these charges get slapped on me, the more and more .. my future’s very dim and more dim,” Brainerd said at the March 3 hearing, adding, “I was never involved with anything like this until the last year. I was surprised by myself and everything else.”
In setting bail at $50,000, Circuit Court Judge Joey Darrah indicated he might be willing to adjust the figure later, but he cited the serious nature of the charges.
“I have a huge public safety concern with delivery of methamphetamines,” Darrah said. The judge added that meth is often mixed with fentanyl, “which could end up killing someone and, unwittingly, it could be a kid.”
Meanwhile, Scheid’s bond was set at $100,000 cash at a Friday hearing.
In arguing for that amount, Hatfield cited “an extensive drug history” for Scheid and multiple failures to appear in court.
“He is definitely a flight risk” and “obviously a public safety hazard when it comes to methamphetamine,” Hatfield charged.
However, in a lengthy response to Hatfield, Scheid countered that “everything he has said is wrong.” For instance, Scheid said he had multiple drug arrests, but not convictions.
“I don’t understand why arrests should be held against me when charges have been dropped. I thought that was part of the whole innocent until proven guilty,” he said. Scheid, who was arrested in Natrona County earlier this month, also disputed Hatfield’s contention that he’d fled Park County or was a flight risk.
“One must, I guess, learn to crawl before they can walk, walk before they can fly, and I don’t even have a pair of shoes to my name,” he said.
Scheid added that he has no money — telling the court that he’d only received a total of $200 this year — and has ties to Park County.
As for the idea he’s a threat to public safety, Scheid noted the affidavit used to support his arrest was signed a couple weeks before his warrant was issued.
“Why wasn’t I a danger during those two weeks?” he asked rhetorically.
In adopting the state’s bond recommendation, Judge Darrah cited the “huge public safety risk” associated with meth and fentanyl, the “strength of the case” and the potential that Scheid might want to flee. The judge indicated he might revisit Scheid’s conditions “when you have an attorney who can present this evidence, and not just a lot of hyperbole.”
As of Wednesday, Scheid was awaiting a preliminary hearing in Park County Circuit Court, Brainerd an arraignment in Park County District Court and Wirfel a detention hearing and arraignment in U.S. District Court.