Court docs: Traffic stop leads to hidden compartment of marijuana, arrest of alleged drug ‘ringleader’

MUNCIE, Ind. – A traffic stop in Delaware County led police to a hidden compartment with 60 pounds of marijuana inside—and to the alleged ringleader of a large marijuana dealing operation.

In the early morning hours on Thursday, members of the Muncie Narcotics Unit conducted a traffic stop on a white Chevy truck near Highway 332 and I-69. They were aware that the driver, Brandon Neal, 30, Yorktown, had a suspended license.

One of the officers deployed his K-9, who indicated the presence of narcotics in the truck. Officers scrutinized an external gas tank in the rear of the truck, where they saw some tool marks. The tank wasn’t hooked up to any power supply that would operate the pump, and officers obtained a search warrant to dismantle it.

After removing the bolts holding down the tank, officers found an access door had been cut into the tank. They then removed bolts holding down the door and found a hidden compartment where 60 vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana had been stashed.

Neal was arrested on charges of dealing in marijuana over 10 pounds and maintaining a common nuisance. The white truck returned to Christopher Thurston, who was the subject of a long-term investigation, according to court documents.

Police received information that Thurston is the leader of a marijuana dealing ring in the area and obtains marijuana from California in order to sell it. Neal drives out to California every two weeks in Thurston’s truck, police said, to pick up marijuana and hide it in the secret compartment.

Police learned that Neal planned to return from California Thursday morning to drop off a large amount of marijuana at a “stash house” in Daleville.

Investigators were granted a search warrant for Thurston’s home and the stash house. They observed him leaving the residence in a truck and then arrive at the alleged stash house, where he put three totes and long guns into the back of his truck.

Officers in marked cars tried to stop Thurston, but he took off. Investigators eventually found him at Exide Battery, where he was putting the totes in another truck before being apprehended.

During interviews, police learned that Thurston flies out to California every two weeks—the same time Neal drives out to pick up marijuana. Thurston, according to court documents, helps package the drugs and put them in the truck's hidden compartment.

After the marijuana arrives in Indiana, he sends it out for further distribution, according to court documents.

Police arrested Thurston on charges of dealing marijuana, unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon and resisting law enforcement in a vehicle. He has a previous conviction for dealing marijuana, police said.