Wednesday, October 25, 2000

Drug dealer sold meth to truckers, police say

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — Police say Rickey Fightmaster was an experienced salesman with a loyal following.

        From a CB radio in his burgundy minivan, the 54-year-old convicted drug dealer from Indianapolis stayed connected to over-the-road truckers traveling Interstate 75.

        And for $100, police said, they knew they could buy enough methamphetamine to make a cross-country haul with little or no sleep.

        Police said it was Mr. Fightmaster's popularity among truckers and the reputation he brought upon Stony Ridge Plaza, on Hamilton-Lebanon Road, that led to his undoing.

        Tuesday, he remained in jail after being arrested on felony drug charges following an eight-month investigation into the sale of the illegal stimulant.

        Truck stop managers tipped off police to the drug activity in late February and asked for help to stop it, Monroe Chief Ernest Howard said.

        “The management at Stony Ridge said all up and down the highway truckers were saying to go to Stony Ridge and meet that guy, he's got anything you want,” Chief Howard said.

        Mr. Fightmaster, who was sentenced to two years in the Kentucky State Reformatory at LaGrange in 1996 for a drug trafficking conviction in Boone County, stayed at the Stony Ridge Inn for days at a time while he made his deals at nearby restaurants and parking lots. Then he'd disappear for weeks — presumably to refresh his supply, police said.

        “What better place to stop? Where do you have more of a group of customers when you have a group of truckers? Meth is what truckers use,” Chief Howard said.

        Monday around 2:30 p.m., the Warren County Drug Task Force arrested Mr. Fightmaster after an undercover agent met him at the Waffle House restaurant, across the street from Stony Ridge, and reportedly bought one gram of methamphetamine.

        Task force director John Burke said Mr. Fightmaster was in possession of another 4.5 grams of the drug when he was arrested minutes later in the Stony Ridge parking lot.

        Jailed in Warren County in lieu of a $12,500 bond, Mr. Fightmaster is scheduled to appear Thursday in Lebanon Municipal Court on charges of aggravated trafficking and preparation of drugs for sale.

        Mr. Burke said the task force has not identified Mr. Fightmaster's source for the drug, which can easily be manufactured in home labs using household cleaners, fertilizer and over-the-counter medications.

        He said there's no indication Mr. Fightmaster was selling any other type of illicit drugs to the truckers, and he did not know if the suspect was part of any organized ring.

        “Why did he pick Stony Ridge? We don't know because he won't talk to us. But as far as we know, he never ventured further than the truck stop,” Mr. Burke said.

        “There's a lot of demand for this drug among truckers because it keeps you awake. The point is to drive farther and make more money and they take meth. Truckers will tell you it's prevalent.”

        However, an official for the Virginia-based American Trucking Associations said police are blowing the methamphetamine problem among truckers out of proportion.

        Spokesman Mike Russell said that only 1.3 percent of commercially licensed truck drivers turned up positive last year for illegal drugs when they were randomly tested under a federal law that requires it annually. The random sample included 1,462 drivers of 112,730 who hold commercial licenses, he said.

        “It's just one of the stereotypes or war stories that plague the good men and women in the trucking industry,” Mr. Russell said.

        “Not everyone is a cowboy. Not everyone cheats in the logs. Not everyone pops bennies. They go out there and do their jobs in a professional way and go home to their families — and they keep yours safe while they are at it.”


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