Melvin Elijah Loveless on Oct. 4, 2022 (Gregory Hirst, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — A 41-year-old Casper man has been sentenced to 7–10 years in state prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine and fentanyl. 

Melvin Elijah Loveless was sentenced Thursday by Seventh Judicial District Judge Catherine Wilking.

Loveless was charged last year as part of a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation case that led to formal charges for five defendants. Eleven others were named in a grand jury indictment.

The state-identified ringleaders, Isaiah Wallace and Xavier Bynum, were arrested in March 2022 with almost 12 pounds of methamphetamine and over 2,800 fentanyl pills, according to the DCI affidavit. Wallace was sentenced to 12–18 years in prison in February.

State prosecutor Blaine Nelson described Loveless as “a primary hub” of the conspiracy at sentencing on Thursday. 

Loveless’s attorney, Keith Nachbar, argued that Loveless was only a minor player in the overall drug scene. Though their sources and customers may have overlapped, Nachbar said there was big distinction to be made between Loveless and Wallace.

Nelson said that the distribution of about a pound and a half of methamphetamine had been attributed to Loveless throughout the investigation.

Nelson asked Wilking to impose 12–16 years in prison, citing two subsequent felony drug convictions for Loveless since last year. One was for the delivery of a designer drug, sold as a counterfeit fentanyl, that had led to an overdose — a reminder of the true harm wrought by the opioid crisis in Natrona County, Nelson said.

Nachbar asked Judge Wilking to consider a four- to six-year sentence. He said the state’s case linking Loveless directly to the Wallace conspiracy relied heavily on DCI interviews with confidential informants who might have exaggerated to secure more favorable treatment.

When Loveless was arrested on the charge, law enforcement found only a syringe and a residual amount of meth; evidence of his limited role in the conspiracy, Nachbar said.

Citing a U.S. Sentencing Commission study, Nachbar also argued that Loveless was less likely to reoffend now that he was in his forties. Loveless also owned an automotive repair business, which would likely account for at least some of his observed trips to the Denver area, where Wallace had also acquired drugs to distribute in Wyoming.

Judge Wilking ultimately imposed a 7- to 10-year sentence in state prison. Though she acknowledged that Loveless had taken responsibility for his activities early on, his criminal history and the new charges while Loveless was on bond factored in her decision.