South Bend man charged with making and ingesting illegal drug

NILES — A South Bend man involved with making methamphetamine will serve prison time for the crime, after he was sentenced by Berrien County Judge Charles LaSata Monday morning.

Donald Swank, 54, of the 61000 block of Locust Road in South Bend, was charged with second offense operation and maintenance of a meth lab; manufacturing a controlled substance; possession of methamphetamine and operating a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance.

Donald pleaded not guilty to the charges on June 13, 2017. A two-day jury trial followed and Swank was found to be guilty of all charges. He faced life in prison for the crimes.

He was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years to a maximum of 30 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections on the first two counts; a minimum of one to 20 years in the Michigan Department of Correction for the third count and 93 days in jail for the fourth count. Donald’s sentences will be served concurrently and he has credit for 93 days served.

Donald Swank

The incident that led to Donald’s arrest occurred on May 24, 2017, when a Niles police officer observed a van pulling into the parking lot of the Niles Walgreens at about 1 a.m. The vehicle had been making wide turns and had trouble pulling into the parking space on the first try, according to court documents.

The officer observed a passenger leave the vehicle and run into the store, returning with pseudoephedrine — a common cold drug that can be used to illegally make methamphetamine.

Swank was driving the vehicle and was pulled over by police in the 900 block of S. Fifth Street Officers questioned the passenger, who stated that she had been paid to go into the store and buy the pseudoephedrine. Also in the vehicle was Erik Swank, 50, Swank’s brother. Police searched Erik, uncovering a plastic baggy with a substance inside it and a tin containing acetaminophen and oxycodone — a schedule two narcotic.

In the van, authorities also located a meth pipe and equipment for a one-pot meth lab, including a gas generator tube, which tested positive for meth.

Erik Swank

Donald admitted to officers that he had been smoking meth and driving and the passenger. Erik was also arrested and lodged at Niles LEC. He was charged with manufacturing meth. He pleaded guilty to the charge on May 31 and was sentenced to serve 90 to 240 months in prison.

Swank’s defense attorney Jennifer Fields said she disagreed with the jury’s verdict. She also said that Swank’s brother had allegedly admitted to owning many of the meth components.

“He [Donald Swank] does not know all the components that go into manufacturing meth. The drugs were found on Erik that night, not on Donald,” Fields said.

She advised LaSata to take into account her client’s age and asked that he lower the sentence.

Judge LaSata said he did not intend to serve Swank with the maximum sentence, but said he was troubled by Swank’s history with methamphetamine.

“You have been actively engaged in the production of meth in Indiana and Michigan,” LaSata said. “Your continued criminal behavior is an immediate threat not only to southern Berrien County, but to the entire region.”

LaSata added that he did not find Erik’s testimony to be credible. He referred to Swank as a “leader” in the situation that unfolded in May and said society needed to be protected from his actions.

Also sentenced Monday:

• Nathan Remus, 32, of the 1200 block of S. 11th St. in Niles, was charged with fourth degree fleeing and eluding a police officer and impaired driving. He pleaded guilty as charged Dec. 8 and was sentenced to a minimum of 12 months to a maximum of 20 months in the Michigan Department of Corrections.

• Jacob Schram, 20, of the 1800 block of Howard St. in Niles, was charged with domestic violence and discharging a firearm toward a building. He pleaded guilty as charged on Nov. 22. He was sentenced to 55 days in jail, with credit for 55 days for count one and for count two he was ordered to serve 23 to 120 months.

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