News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2008
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
Number: 202-307-7977

Chattanooga Councilman Among 33 Arrested On Drug Charges
DEA: John “Duke” Franklin Obstructed Justice, Used City Phone For Drug Deals

MAY 14 -- (Chattanooga, TN) – DEA, state, and local officials arrested 33 Chattanooga area residents Tuesday, May 14 including City Councilman John “Duke” Franklin as part of a two-year investigation into a drug trafficking organization which operated in Tennessee and Georgia.

According to the indictment, Franklin conspired with Michael Kelley, 44, to commit money laundering and to obstruct justice in connection with the seizure of over $69,000 in drug proceeds.

“Drugs and money are a lethal combination that helps to breed the very corruption that is evident in this case. Taking-down drug trafficking organizations like this one is a good way to help break this unfortunate and sometimes tragic cycle. This investigation would not have been possible without the cooperation of our local, state and federal counterparts,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Rodney G. Benson.

The DEA investigation initially targeted a drug trafficking organization led by Marcus Lewis, 24, in Chattanooga and North Georgia that moved in excess of 40 kilograms of cocaine per month throughout the two states. The investigation eventually linked Lewis and Kelley, and then Kelley with Councilman Franklin.

The indictment alleges that Franklin used his influence to knowingly falsify legal documents in order aide Kelley recoup $69,000 which was seized by the Chattanooga Police Department during a traffic stop in March 2008. It is also alleged that Franklin purchased cocaine from Kelly on more than one occasion, and that he used his assigned city telephone to conduct drug trafficking business.

If convicted on all charges, Franklin could spend 25 years in prison.

DEA was aided in this investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics and Special Operations Division, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Chattanooga Police Department, Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee.