This exclusive report first appeared in The Daily and is posted by direct invitation:
An Oklahoma silver-haired grandmother is accused by authorities of a life as a ruthless, savvy boss of a marijuana-dealing ring that spanned four states.
But Darlene Mayes, 73, told The Daily that it’s a bum rap, and that she was set up by her meth-addicted son.
“I don’t see how [police] could be thinking of how I done this,” she said by telephone. “He left all his stuff here and this is the reason I’m in the mess I’m in. He didn’t turn out to be a very good son.”
Mayes was known as “Miss Big” and “Fluff” in the drug trade, according to police. The former secretary, who spent 25 years as a civil servant, had almost mythological standing among law enforcement officers trying to figure out who was behind the pot ring.
Investigators finally caught up with Mayes in April after a six-year hunt for the phantom heavyweight. They were building a solid case with the help of informants, then got a huge break when her son, Jerry Van Dorsey, was pulled over for tailgating. Cops found 2 pounds of weed in his car along with $2,000 in cash.
Dorsey, 52, pointed to his mother as the ringleader cops had been searching for. When they raided her home two days later, authorities found 4 pounds of weed, two handguns and $276,000.
Mayes was seemingly caught red-handed, but the “Ganja Granny” still claims she is nothing but an innocent retiree.
“I was just a secretary and I enjoyed every minute of it,” she said of her time with Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services, where she retired about 10 years ago. “I always wanted to be [a secretary] and I basically accomplished everything I wanted to do.”
Investigators admit it is difficult to imagine that a woman who spent her twilight years sewing quilts for her grandchildren could be the biggest weed dealer in the region, with a presence in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas.
“I was there with a couple of the investigators the night we figured out we probably were looking for her,” said Vinita, Okla., Police Chief Bobby Floyd. “And all of us were like, ‘I can’t believe this.’”
Mayes apparently got her start at the Department of Human Services, authorities said. The nickname “Fluff” was her co-workers’ code for when they wanted something to smoke.
Mayes acknowledged she was called Fluff at work, but it had nothing to do with dope.
“I would get aggravated and I would be just like an old setting hen and I would just fluff up,” she said.
The drug operation grew larger about six years ago when Mayes met big-time pot peddlers in Arizona, court records say. Mayes then allegedly ran a ring from the comfort of home, with an army of foot soldiers at her control.
Her son, who in March was high on methamphetamine when he survived a shotgun blast to the gut after harassing a woman on her property, turned on Mayes because she refused to keep funding his meth habit, cops said.
“She thought he wouldn’t roll on her because she was giving him just enough to get by,” said Floyd. “Then she cut him off and one thing led to another.”
Nabbed and facing certain hard time given his lengthy rap sheet, Van Dorsey fessed up.
“We arrested him and he said, ‘Man, I’m going to prison,’” Floyd said. “We told him, ‘You’re probably going to prison. You only get so many strikes.’
“That’s when he said, ‘I got to get away from this stuff. Period.’ And he said, ‘I really want my mom to get away from it.’”
Armed with Van Dorsey’s confession, cops closed in on the senior citizen’s alleged cannabis enterprise.
“We know that she never really showed her hand all the time we were watching her,” said Craig County Sheriff Jimmy Scooter. “Because of her son being upset with her, that’s how we were able to get the information and the search warrant.”
Floyd describes Mayes as a smart and “meticulous” operator.
“She was careful,” he said. “And I think she took advantage of being elderly.”
Mayes had excuses for everything the day cops raided her house. She initially told the sheriff that the cash was her retirement fund.
“Somehow she saved $278,000 off $1,800-a-month retirement,” he said. “I told my wife to go and listen to this woman to see how she does this.”
When The Daily confronted Mayes about the money, she said it wasn’t hers.
“That’s not my money. Never was,” she said — adding that the dough wasn’t her son’s, either.
It just mysteriously appeared, she said.
“The money belonged to someone else,” she said. “I was not holding it and I didn’t know it was here. It doesn’t make any difference to my lifestyle.”
And the pistols?
“There was no ammunition,” she noted. “I don’t like guns at all, but I just had the one gun and another was somebody else’s. It had never been used.”
The accused matron of marijuana, scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 30, said she feels betrayed by her son.
“He is lying about everything that he has signed an affidavit to,” said Mayes, who is out on bail after spending just a couple of nights in jail.
She refuses to bail out her son, who can’t post the $150,000 bond.
Reprinted with permission; click here for the original posting on The Daily.