Two men indicted on federal drug charges

Two Michigan men, including the former leader of Detroit's "Pony Down Crew" drug ring, Larry Buttrom, were indicted on federal drug charges Nov. 6.

Buttrom, 50, and Justin Simpson, 23, were being held in Boone County Jail after they were arrested by Columbia police on suspicion of drug and gun possession on July 8. It is unknown why the men were in Columbia, Sgt. Scott Young said.

The men, though organized, were not part of any larger citywide crime trend, he said.

"There is no suspicion about an increase in organized drug trade in Columbia," Young said.

If convicted, Buttrom and Simpson both face a maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison, Don Ledford, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office said.

The indictment lists three total charges against Buttrom and Simpson. Both men are charged on one count of conspiracy to possess and attempt to distribute Ecstasy and marijuana.

Buttrom and Simpson are separately charged on counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, Ecstasy and marijuana.

Both men are being held on $2 million bail at the Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center's jail. They were transferred from Boone County Jail on Thursday, Boone County Sheriff's Officer Damon Reynolds said.

Young said the federal indictment was directly linked to this summer's arrests.

Buttrom and Simpson were jailed after police searched the 1100 block of West Boulevard and a storage unit located at 2300 Paris Road after receiving reports from people who said they had heard gunshots.

They found four and a half pounds of marijuana, 927 ecstasy pills, one gram of cocaine, a revolver and a semiautomatic handgun, according to a Columbia Police news release.

"Charges often violate both state and federal law," Ledford said. "A lot of times that's the case, especially in narcotics cases."

Young said federal charges tend to take precedent over those from the state. Longer prison sentences usually accompany the federal charges.

"State charges will usually be dropped when the feds step in and file those charges," Young said.

Buttrom and Simpson both had been arrested in Boone County before their July arrest.

Simpson was charged with possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana in March, and Buttrom was charged with driving while intoxicated in May.

Buttrom was also the leader of the Pony Down Crew, a Detroit drug gang that sold tens of millions in heroin and crack cocaine on the streets of Detroit during the early 1980s.

He was sentenced to six and a half years in prison after being arrested in January 1986. After that, Buttrom seemingly vanished from the drug-crime radar.

This indictment marks the second major drug development in Columbia in the past month. On Oct. 19, police released the names of 11 suspected street-level crack cocaine dealers and began arresting them after a two-month undercover investigation.

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