Published November 22, 2015 by Jennifer Palmer (NewsOK)
MUSKOGEE, OK – The Love County sheriff is being investigated by the FBI in connection with his son’s alleged drug dealing, The Oklahoman has confirmed.
FBI Agent Steve West said the agency is investigating Sheriff Joe Russell, 62, who has been in office since 2001. The sheriff’s son, George “Willie” Russell, 38, was indicted by a federal grand jury Nov. 3 on a count of distribution of methamphetamine.
Agent West testified Monday in federal court in Muskogee during a hearing to consider Willie Russell’s request to be released from Muskogee County jail to a drug treatment center while awaiting trial. The judge denied the request.
The FBI is investigating allegations the sheriff may have assisted his son’s alleged illegal drug activities.
Sheriff Russell did not return several phone calls made by The Oklahoman last week seeking comment.
His son, Willie Russell, of Leon, was arrested May 29, accused of selling 2.8 grams of crystal meth to a confidential law enforcement informant outside Okie’s Corner Store in Carter County, court records show.
A series of text messages — detailed in a search warrant — reveal the informant convinced Willie Russell, whose iPhone later was seized, to cross into Carter County to make the deal.
Willie Russell attempted to move the meeting location into Love County several times and was overheard on a wiretap from inside the informant’s vehicle saying he “did not want to come into Carter County because he didn’t feel safe doing the drug transaction in Carter County,” court records state. He eventually relented.
The text messages also indicate Willie Russell purchased the drugs with his dad’s cash, although it doesn’t say whether the sheriff knew how the money was being used.
“I’m going to give them ($)200 of my dads money so I got to have it back by 6,” Russell wrote. The informant replied “Ok I got it.”
About 30 minutes later Russell wrote: “Hell they haven’t even showed up, but (I) told the(m) I needed it by 4 so I could replace my dads money,” the records state. Minutes later, he wrote “I sold a 3 wheeler. I have to take him the money at frontiers day.”
The Love County Frontier Days celebration was May 28-30 in Marietta.
Willie Russell originally was charged in Carter County District Court with distribution and unlawful possession of methamphetamine, but the state charge was dropped when federal prosecutors took the case.
A jury trial is scheduled for Jan. 5 in federal court.
This is not the first time one of Sheriff Russell’s relatives has been in legal trouble.
James Conn Nipp — identified as the sheriff’s nephew in court filings — is serving 10 years in prison for an illegal car chase that also involved two young people, who are now missing.Follow @FortySixNews