A Kansas man was charged in a federal indictment unsealed today with growing thousands of poppy plants at his home in Clay County in an effort to manufacture heroin, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.
Matthew Pfeiffer, 43, Morganville, Kan., is charged with one count of attempting to manufacture opium, one count of manufacturing thebaine (a constituent of opium), and one count of using a telephone in furtherance of drug trafficking.
The indictment alleges that the investigation began when the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Riley County Police Department received information that Pfeiffer was growing poppies and planning to manufacture heroin. On June 4, 2020, law enforcement officers served a search warrant at Pfeiffer’s home in Morganville, where they seized more than 4,000 poppy plants. The poppies were identified as Papaver somniferum, a plant from which opium is derived.
“Opium poppies are an unfamiliar sight in Kansas,” McAllister said, “and we want to keep it that way. It is unlawful to grow poppies for the purpose of producing opiates.”
“The cultivation of poppy plants, for the purpose of making opium paste for heroin production, is extremely rare in the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge William J. Callahan, head of the St. Louis Division, which covers Kansas. “The DEA along with our law enforcement partners thwarted this attempt to produce heroin, and we will continue to stand in the way of violators who seek to harm our communities. This case should serve as an example and a warning that the DEA is as committed to preventing further harm caused by the opioid crisis in rural America, as we are in major cities.”
If convicted, Pfeiffer could face a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million on the charges of attempting to manufacture controlled substances and up to four years and a fine up to $250,000 on the telephone count.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Riley County Police Department led the investigation with assistance from the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Department and the Kansas Highway Patrol and the U.S. Marshals Service.
In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.