EPD: School board member 'had knowledge' of drug trafficking

·5 min read

EVANSVILLE — Evansville police say school board member Amy Word "had knowledge" of narcotics trafficking at the West Franklin Street bar she owns, Lamasco Bar and Grill.

Word was booked into the Vanderburgh County jail at 6:34 a.m. Saturday morning on a charge listed as "controlled substance-common nuisance-maintaining," a Level 6 felony.

She was later released after posting a $500 bond, according to jail logs. The Courier & Press left Word a phone message seeking comment. No one answered a knock on the door of her home.

Amy Word
Amy Word

Evansville Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Anna Gray said Word was one of 22 people arrested during the course of a narcotics investigation targeting drug trafficking along the Franklin Street corridor. According to police, that investigation has led to the seizure of pound-quantities of narcotics and multiple firearms.

In a news release, Gray said detectives initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle owned by Word at 4:30 a.m. Saturday. Detectives "noticed a strong smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle," the news release states.

Word was allegedly in the passenger seat of the car, which police said was being driven by 29-year-old Zachary Clark, who has since been charged with possession of marijuana and possession of a controlled substance. Detectives allegedly found cocaine and marijuana in the vehicle.

During the traffic stop, Word allegedly told police that she knew cooks at Lamasco are always "high" while working, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in her case.

The affidavit also said multiple confidential informants provided information that they used to sell cocaine to Word.

"Word has increasingly become short tempered, aggressive and careless, causing many employees to save photographs and videos that showed her erratic behavior and using cocaine in case her anger turned on them," the affidavit states.

Earlier in the night, detectives say they witnessed "hand-to-hand" drug transactions in the Lamasco Bar & Grill parking lot between individuals who were already under investigation for dealing narcotics.

During a 1:30 a.m. traffic stop, police said they confiscated approximately eight grams of cocaine that also field tested positive for fentanyl. The two men allegedly inside of the vehicle – Aaron Funkhouser and Steven Driesbach – have since been charged with dealing narcotics, according to court records.

The news release states that a later traffic stop was conducted on a vehicle operated by 35-year-old Demario Holman, who was taken into custody for dealing cocaine.

After securing search warrants for Holman's vehicle and residence, detectives said they recovered more than $22,000 in cash, more than a pound of cocaine, a pound of marijuana and five firearms — including a semi-automatic rifle.

Detectives also executed a search warrant at Lamasco Bar & Grill on Saturday morning "in furtherance of the investigation."

To date, police said, the probe has resulted in the seizure of $43,000 in cash, over 1.7 kilograms of marijuana, 1.1 kilograms of cocaine, over 100 grams of "hallucinogenic drugs," approximately 10 grams of meth, over 3 grams of fentanyl, over 1,100 grams of cocaine and various pills.

In the news release, Evansville police said the investigation is ongoing and "more arrests are expected."

Police aware of dealing at Lamasco Bar & Grill since before 2019

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed against Word, detectives investigating an overdose death several years ago learned that a Lamasco employee "frequently sold heroin, marijuana, cocaine and pills at both Sportsman's Bar & Grill and Lamasco Bar on West Franklin Street."

Police detail numerous drug transactions in the affidavit that allegedly took place at Lamasco Bar & Grill, and cite multiple conversations with confidential informants who claimed it was "common knowledge" that a Lamasco bathroom was used to make "quick deals," most commonly for purchases of cocaine.

Five confidential informants allegedly told investigators "you cannot enter Lamasco's Bar and not know about the drug use and distribution that takes place in plain view."

The affidavit cites a recorded call between Word and an inmate at the Vanderburgh County jail. According to police, the inmate told Word to dispose of items stored in a safe. Word allegedly got angry, and the affidavit states Word told the inmate, "the only thing in the safe was her money and someone's 'dope.'"

According to police, confidential informants told investigators Word would use the bar's "petty cash" to purchase cocaine, which would later be distributed amongst employees and "whoever stayed after the bar closed." The informants told police this happened "multiple times."

Police said Holman, who was arrested during the operation for dealing large quantities of cocaine, would communicate with Word "in person or via an encrypted phone application." Police say they've secured phone records showing the pair communicated at least twice in March.

Word, 47, has owned Lamasco Bar & Grill at 1331 W. Franklin St. since 2009, according to the Indiana Secretary of State's office. In 2019, she opened Amy's on Franklin, 1418 W. Franklin St., a higher-end bar and restaurant.

Word was elected to the EVSC School Board in 2020, winning one of the two seats for District 3 by nearly 5,000 votes. Earlier this month, the Courier & Press included her name on a list of potential mayoral candidates.

"My reason for seeking public office was to always serve where I was most needed and to use my talents where I could be of best use for the people of the community," she told the Courier & Press at the time. "Any decisions made regarding future positions will always have this as the primary focus."

This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: EVSC board member, restaurant owner Amy Word arrested Saturday