BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — As a Johnson City woman was dealing with the aftermath of a man’s overdose death last year — and being jailed for allegedly dumping his body — members of an international drug trafficking conspiracy were paying close attention.
That’s among the allegations in a federal indictment that charges Wanda Ward and 10 others with trafficking kilograms of fentanyl and other hard drugs through Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Several days after Brian Morrison’s death, the indictment states, alleged ringleader Brian Lumbus, Jr. was speaking to a co-conspirator by phone and said, “‘Man, we got to be careful man for a second man … somebody died.'”
That conversation occurred after Ward had been arrested for second-degree murder and abuse of a corpse charges in Morrison’s overdose death.
The indictment says co-conspirators delivered drugs to Ward around Oct. 27 “for further distribution causing the overdose death of B.M.”
It claims Ward was holding 100 grams of fentanyl, supplied by Lumbus’s operation, which allegedly imported chemicals from China and India to produce a variety of drugs.
“Brianna Lumbus informed Brian Lumbus, Jr. of Ward’s arrest and stated, ‘Wanda (Ward) is in jail for second degree murder and she got caught with it, she got caught with the whole order,” the indictment reads.
Morrison died at a Bristol, Tenn. hotel Oct. 27 of a suspected heroin overdose. Ward and James Duncan are accused locally of purchasing plastic wrapping, tape and other materials, wrapping Morrison’s body and attempting to hide it at Observation Knob Park. A fisherman found the body the next day and the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office arrested Ward Oct. 29 after a quick investigation.
The indictment alleges that several weeks before Morrison’s death, Lumbus spoke to Ward on the phone and said “We are going to be getting some more s*#t down there (Tennessee) this weekend … that’s going to be way stronger than that.”
A week after that, on Oct. 12, 2022, Lumbus allegedly told Ward of another pending drug delivery, “I’m going to boost it up and it’s going to be better than what you got.”
The indictment describes conspirators mixing various batches of highly potent drugs in amounts up to hundreds of grams — including the synthetic opioid metonitazene, which the federal government says was first discovered in a 2020 drug seizure.
Lumbus is alleged to have said Oct. 22 that a batch of drugs with metonitazene was going to be sent to Tennessee.
Ten days later, after Lumbus told Italian counterpart Giancarlo “Karl” Miserotti that “somebody died,” Miserotti allegedly replied, “‘Ohhh… it was too strong.’ After discussion of details of the death, Miserotti said, ‘I think the ratio of the pink (Metonitazene) was thick.'”
Ward, 46, was due in Sullivan County Criminal Court Thursday on second-degree murder and other felony charges related to Morrison, of Kingsport. That appearance was rescheduled to Monday due to an attorney scheduling conflict. Duncan did appear and Judge James Goodwin scheduled an appearance hearing for Feb. 8, 2024.
Whether Ward also makes an appearance nearly three months from now will most likely depend on the whims of federal authorities, who could take custody of Ward at any time. Her federal charges, possessing more than 40 grams of fentanyl with intent to distribute, could bring 20 years to life given the additional factor of Morrison’s death.
The Northern District of Ohio indictment, filed under seal Nov. 1, claims that from a prison cell in Ohio, Lumpus oversaw a ring that obtained fentanyl, xylazine and other drugs starting in 2016 and extending into 2023.
The drugs allegedly came from China, India and Italy. The drugs were imported, packaged and distributed through Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee. The conspirators allegedly used Bitcoin for some of their transactions and sought to sell synthetic opioids, synthetic cannibinoids such as K2 Spice and animal tranquilizer xylazine through the dark web.
The indictment claims they also used Bitcoin to transfer assets.