26 arrested as East Alabama drug trafficking operation dismantled
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - More than two dozen suspected drug traffickers in east Alabama have been arrested and charged on multiple counts in connection to a joint federal, state, and local narcotics investigation, Acting U.S. Attorney A. Clark Morris confirmed Thursday.
In all, 26 suspects were taken into custody. Half are facing federal narcotics and money laundering charges, while the other half are facing state narcotics charges.
"We're here today to announce the arrest of 26 defendants for assorted different drug charges and money laundering charges," said Acting U.S. Attorney A. Clark Morris for the Middle District of Alabama. "This is an 18 month investigation that spanned from Auburn all the way to California. We have been working this with all of our tools. Local, state and federal agencies have all worked together and used the whole toolbox to get this group."
Of the 13 arrested on federal charges, two are from out-of-state while the others are all from Auburn. They're each charged in a six-count indictment with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute, or did distribute drugs including cocaine, marijuana, Xanax, and methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (known as MDMA or ecstasy). Four of the suspects are also accused of money laundering.
Those arrested on federal charges include:
- Alfred Lorenzo Cole, 36, of Santa Rosa, California
- Sakeya Monique Donaldson, 38, of Atlanta, Georgia
- Leanne Grimmett, 31
- Jermichael Lamar Hart, 31
- Worldly Dieago Holstick, 35
- Mackenzie Leigh Keith, 23
- Tyesha Lanise Lockhart, 20
- John Willie Maddox, Jr., 27
- Marquis Lanez Miller, 36
- Timothy Lamar Spinks, 42
- Erin Kristen Turner, 23
- Lateasha Lashun Williams, 30
- Lester Stephen Young, 34
Those suspects facing the additional money laundering charges include Holstick, Turner, Cole, and Grimmett. They could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of half a million dollars if found guilty.
On the federal conspiracy counts, Holstick, Miller, Maddox, Cole, Lockhart, Turner, Donaldson, Young, Spinks, and Hart could face prison terms of between five and 40 years and fines of up to $5 million.
Maddox, Williams, Keith, and Miller could also face up to 20 years in prison on the distribution charges with fines of up to $1 million.
Those arrested on state charges of criminal conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime include:
- Shedrick Taryl Cannon of Notasula
- Travis Lamar Dowdell, of Auburn
- Carlton Antonio Goodman, Jr., of Dadeville
- Blakely Elizabeth Kilgore, of Huntsville
- Samson Jermon Logan, of Auburn
- Keuntae Rajhun Mabson, of Tuskegee
- Adam Lee McPheeters, of Auburn
- Antonio Jermaine Mitchell, of Opelika
- Eric Kendall Smith, of Auburn
- Alexander White, Jr., of Thomasville
- Caleb Andrew Whitworth, of Notasulga
Two others facing state charges including Eric Lamar Kellum, of Opelika, and Quentin Eugene Turner, of Auburn. Kellum is charged with distribution of a controlled substance, and Turner is charged with possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia.
Multiple agencies took part in the investigation including the DEA, Alabama attorney general's office, U.S. Marshals, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Alabama HIDTA Task Force, Alabama National Guard, Central Alabama Drug Task Force, police departments in Auburn, Eufaula, Millbrook, Montgomery, Prattville, Troy, and sheriff's offices in Autauga, Elmore, Montgomery and Lee counties.
"We do have evidence that there was drug trafficking out of a particular community. there were marijuana, cocaine and MDMA and those drugs were flowing pretty freely throughout this geographical area. With the work of everyone here, we were able to put an end to that," said Verne Speirs with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The state cases are being prosecuted by the Lee County district attorney's office while U.S. Attorneys are handling the federal cases.
"Drug dealers to me have the biggest ripple effect of any other crime. They not only affect themselves and their families but also the addicts and their families," Morris aid. "It creates addicts which ultimately can create overdoses and now we're talking about deaths. So when you take 26 drug dealers off the streets, you're making a huge impact in a small community like Auburn and the Lee County area."
The DEA Office in Montgomery is manned with investigators from the state and local agencies from across the region. It was one of the Auburn PD investigators assigned to the DEA office who initiated the case 18 months ago.
"Working alongside a DEA special agent, these two investigators started the case by purchasing illicit drugs from key members of the organization," said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bret Hamilton with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
They were able to identify and indict dozens of members of the operation.
"During the arrests yesterday, quite a number of weapons were encountered, everything from AR-15's to 44 Magnum handgun and various other handguns and long guns were encountered with the defendants. we were extremely fortunate that no one was injured," Hamilton added.
He indicated the case is nowhere near over and that there will likely be a second round of indictments.
Auburn Police Chief Paul Register said the massive investigation has helped make Auburn and Lee County safer.
"Everyone in our community is impacted by drugs, including those who have lost a family member and those affected by crimes associated with it like burglary, theft and robbery," he said during the press conference. "What i hope is that the arrest of these 26 individuals and more to come will maybe give a little bit of peace of mind to some of those who have lost loved ones or been the victim of a crime. I just want to thank everyone involved."
Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes stressed the dangers created by drug dealers and traffickers.
"Drugs wreck individuals and they wreck families but they bring in guns and guns crimes to our community. What yesterday was about was removing that garbage from our streets. Yesterday was trash day," he said. f you're a drug dealer, Lee County is a not a place you want to do business. I advise you to take it elsewhere."
He also talked about the successful efforts to arrests all of the suspects in the Auburn area on Wednesday. The busts happened at different locations, including a busy intersection on East University Drive, a location on East Magnolia Avenue and a trailer park on Lee Road 57. Arrests were also made at homes in Atlanta, Georgia and Santa Rosa, California.
"When they were going into these houses and we had people in there guarding their drugs and their money and they had weapons and they weren't afraid to use them . The fact that these agents and officers were willing to go bust down doors to make Lee County safer is a testament to them," Hughes added.
During the 18 month investigation, authorities found that millions of dollars were funneled through different bank accounts
"This is probably the largest number of people that we've taken down in years. it was a huge takedown, especially to be concentrated in one area," Morris said.
"Several of the individuals within the organization were willing to kill to protect their drugs and assets so it was a very dangerous organization," Hamilton added.
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