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Big drug bust nets only short time in jail

Staff writers

Hillsboro police officer John Huebert’s suspicions about the driver of a 2011 Ford Edge he spotted at 3:20 p.m. Sunday at F and Ash Sts. in Hillsboro proved accurate.

But those suspicions didn’t keep Jeffrey Richard Vernon Prafke, 41, of Wichita in jail for long.

Despite an extensive criminal record and, according to police, discovery of between 55 and 275 doses of methamphetamine in his car, he was released less than 24 hours later on his own recognizance, without having to post a surety bond.

What remains in custody is his vehicle, seized by Hillsboro police.

Chief Jessey Hiebert came on duty Sunday afternoon to help take custody of it under laws that allow authorities to petition a court to seize vehicles used in commission of crimes.

Hiebert said Tuesday that Huebert hadn’t yet filed his report.

Asked whether he was disappointed Prafke got out of jail so quickly, Hiebert opted not to comment.

“I would have no comment on what the judge did,” Hiebert said.

Neither did county attorney Joel Ensey.

“I’m not going to comment about my feelings,” he said.

He did say that “bond is not supposed to be punitive.”

The bond amount and type was set Monday by Judge Susan Robson.

The arrest and release began immediately after Huebert checked the Ford’s license plates by radio Sunday afternoon.

Huebert radioed dispatchers to confirm that the license of the driver, whom he apparently had recognized, had been revoked.

Dispatchers verified the revocation and added that the driver was wanted on two out-of-state warrants but that those states would not pay to extradite him from Kansas.

Huebert then called for deputy Josh Meliza and his drug dog, Karma.

Meliza arrived less than 10 minutes later and reported that Karma indicated the odor of illicit substances.

Huebert reported finding 27.54 grams of meth. A typical dose, according to federal drug experts, ranges from just 0.1 to 0.5 of a gram, depending on the potency of the often home-made drug.

Huebert took the driver into custody, transporting him first to the Hillsboro police station and then to county jail.

Prafke was booked on suspicion of possession and distribution of meth, possession of drug paraphernalia and manufacturing items, failing to have evidence of liability insurance, and driving while his license was revoked.

Twenty-one hours later, however, he was free, released according to jail records on his own recognizance by promising to pay $10,000 should he not appear in court.

He was not required to post a surety bond guaranteeing appearance. Bonds typically require a cash deposit of 10% or more with a bail bondsman.

Prafke initially was booked without bond being set. Robson set bond during an initial court appearance.

District court records indicate that it wasn’t the first time Prafke had appeared in a Marion County courtroom — or in other Kansas courtrooms.

Marion County charges of making a criminal threat, criminal restraint, criminal deprivation of property, and domestic battery stemming from a Jan. 18, 2020, incident were dismissed April 15, 2021, at Ensey’s request. The alleged victim in that case would not cooperate with the investigation, Ensey said.

That wasn’t Prafke’s only brush with the law, however.

In Pottawatomie County, he was convicted May 24, 2018, of possession of stolen property.

Charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated failure to appear in court were dismissed in 2018 in Geary County after he was extradited from Minnesota.

In 2016, he was convicted of two drug possession charges while three other charges, involving two separate arrests, were dismissed in a Geary County plea bargain.

Drug charges filed against him in 2014 in Riley County were dismissed in 2015.

A plea bargain in 2006 resulted in a conviction in a drug case in Geary County along with a conviction on another charge of aggravated failure to appear in court.

A 2002 drug case against him in Geary County was dismissed, but his probation on an even earlier case in Geary County was revoked in 1999.

Last modified Sept. 29, 2022

 

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