Oklahoma TV news outlet KJRH reports that an investigation into Mayes began five months ago, when authorities began to suspect that the white-haired, bespectacled grandmother was involved in the local drug trade. When they presented her with a warrant on Monday and searched her home, officers had expected to find marijuana -- but not bundles of cash. They now express surprise at the apparent extent of her involvement.
It was an extreme 'wow' moment, said Bobby Floyd, the Vinita police chief. We kept finding more cash and it was so surprising that it was just laying around. It was in closets, underneath the bed. But it wasn't really hidden.
Mayes reportedly claimed that the money was for retirement savings; other than that, she didn't say much as she was taken into custody. She was escorted to the county jail and booked in at about 11:45 Monday evening.
This represents more than a simple drug bust, said authorities. Mayes could very well have been a quiet kingpin in the northeastern Oklahoma drug trade, and her influence on the area may even cross state borders.
We think we really put a big dent in the drug trade in Northeastern Oklahoma, said Jimmy Sooter, Craig County's sheriff. We are [located] right in the corner [of the state.] We've got Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas not far away. We feel like it was coming in from all over. And we think this is a real good arrest.
Darlene Mayes may have supplied up to 40 percent of the marijuana within that area, reported ABC. Police are now investigating her connections; she is suspected of having a wide network of dealers, although it is likely most of them did not communicate with Mayes directly. The elderly woman's son Jerry is suspected of close involvement as a dealer, and has already been arrested.
Mayes herself faces five charges: possession of marijuana, with intent to distribute, keeping a home where drugs are kept or sold, possessing a firearm in commission of a felony, and failure to affix tax stamps, according to KJRH.
The money recovered from Mayes's property will be used to fund anti-drug programs in Craig County.