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Drug Trafficking Ringleader Craig Petties Sentenced to Life in Federal Prison

AUG 23 (MEMPHIS, Tenn.) - Craig Petties, 36, of Memphis, Tennessee was sentenced today to nine life sentences in federal prison by United States District Judge Samuel H. Mays, announced U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III.

In 2009, Petties pleaded guilty to 19 charges related to his role as the ringleader of one of the largest drug trafficking organizations ever prosecuted in West Tennessee. Petties and the other members of his criminal racketeering enterprise conspired with cocaine traffickers in Mexico, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and elsewhere. As part of the conspiracy, cocaine was prepared, packaged and/or stored, prior to distribution to buyers in “stash houses.” The defendant and the co-conspirators used these “stash houses” to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities.

It was further part of the conspiracy that the defendants and their co-conspirators sorted, counted, packaged, and stored large amounts of cash derived from the sale of controlled substances in various co-conspirators’ premises in the Western District of Tennessee. The co-conspirators delivered large amounts of currency derived from the sale of cocaine from the Western District of Tennessee and elsewhere to Texas and Mexico. In order to facilitate continued drug trafficking and in order to prevent others from cooperating with law enforcement authorities, it was further part of the conspiracy that the defendant and the co-conspirators did kill other people. Petties pleaded guilty to murder in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder for hire, and he admitted to a role in at least four murders. Petties also later pleaded guilty to a separate charge of possessing a weapon while in custody at the Federal Correctional Institution in Memphis.

Over 40 people have been charged and convicted as part of this investigation. The sentencing of Petties represented the end of these successful prosecutions in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.  

“The dismantling of the Petties organization brought his reign of terror to an abrupt end. Petties, who was dubbed as a powerful ‘drug lord,’ trafficked vast quantities of cocaine and marijuana and was one of the most violent and notorious drug dealers in Memphis history,” said Harry S. Sommers, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division. “Despite his power, criminal protection and violent methods of operation, step by step, the government successfully dismantled his once-thriving criminal network. This life sentence would not have been possible without the high-level of cooperation between federal, state, local and Mexican law enforcement authorities.”

“Craig Petties was the ringleader of one of the largest and most violent criminal organizations to ever operate in the state of Tennessee. The court’s sentence of life without the possibility of parole holds Petties accountable for his ruthless acts,” said U.S. Attorney Stanton. “It should also send a clear message to those who distribute poison into our communities and protect their criminal activity by any means necessary: you will not get away with it, and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I hope the sentence imposed today can provide a meaningful measure of closure to the families of those murdered and victimized by the Petties organization, as well as the community as a whole.”

This investigation was conducted in conjunction with prosecutors in Memphis as part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program, which seeks to reduce the availability of drugs by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, money laundering organizations and related criminal enterprises.

Because there is no parole in the federal prison system, Petties will spend the rest of his life in prison. This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the United States Marshals Service, the Memphis Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department and the Olive Branch Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David Pritchard on behalf of the government.

The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justthinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.


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