JUN 27 (NASHVILLE, Tenn.) –A federal grand jury in Nashville, Tenn. returned a 23-count indictment on June 25, 2014, charging 22 individuals with various offenses relating to a conspiracy to distribute large amounts of heroin and fentanyl in the Middle Tennessee area, Northern Alabama and St. Louis, Missouri, announced David Rivera, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. Much of the heroin had been adulterated or replaced with fentanyl and caused or contributed to the death of at least two persons in Alabama and was responsible for multiple non-fatal overdoses.
Joining Rivera at a morning news conference were Chief Steve Anderson of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, Jack Webb, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the ATF, Nashville Field Division and Michael Stanfill, Asst. Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for Tennessee.
Local, state and federal agents, yesterday, began arresting those named in the indictment and as of this morning, 21 suspects were in custody.
“The resurgence of heroin as the drug of choice is wreaking havoc in our communities across the nation and causing untold overdoses and deaths,” said U.S. Attorney David Rivera. “I commend our law enforcement partners for their untiring efforts in bringing this case and interrupting the flow of such dangerous substances to our neighborhoods. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will vigorously prosecute this case and seek appropriate sentences for the conduct of those charged.”
According to the indictment, the year-long investigation identified Jamal Cooper of Antioch, Tenn. as one of the leaders and supervisors of the heroin distribution conspiracy and who was responsible for obtaining large quantities of heroin from multiple sources, including Lonald Ector of San Bernardino, Calif. and Robert Gonzales of Fontana, Calif. Various residences and properties in Nashville and Antioch, Tennessee, Florence, Alabama, and Sheffield, Alabama were used by the defendants to store heroin and cash generated from the sale and distribution of heroin, and from which to distribute heroin and fentanyl to the Middle Tennessee area, Northern Alabama and St. Louis Missouri.
The indictment alleges that members of the conspiracy used cutting agents, to dilute the heroin to increase their profits and distributed fentanyl, which they purported to be heroin, which caused or contributed to two deaths in Alabama and numerous non-fatal overdoses in Alabama and Nashville.
According to the facts set forth in the indictment, the defendants remained undeterred after learning of the deaths and overdoses and continued to distribute the heroin and fentanyl.
The indictment also alleges that four of the defendants conspired to use firearms against individuals whom they believed were attempting to rob other members of the conspiracy of money and drugs and one person was in fact shot in Nashville on April 4, 2014.
“These heroin-related overdoses and deaths are absolutely unacceptable,” Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson said. “Arrests like those announced today show that violent criminal activity associated with the illegal drug trade will not be tolerated by law enforcement and our partners in prosecutors’ offices at the state and federal level.”
“This focused investigation will have a lasting impact on reducing firearms related violence and taking drugs off the streets of the Nashville Metro area,” said ATF Special Agent–in–Charge Jeff Fulton. “Additionally, these arrests demonstrate ATF and our partners’ continued dedication to identify, target, and investigate violent criminals who lessen the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”
“The prescription pill epidemic in the U.S. continues to produce a rapidly expanding base of new heroin users with no regard to race, gender, age, or economic background,” said Michael Stanfill, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA in Tennessee. “Our federal, state, and local partners will aggressively pursue those drug trafficking organizations that are attempting to capitalize on this new demand for heroin. This investigation is another example of law enforcement agencies working together and utilizing their combined resources to decimate a violent drug organization and improve the quality of life for people in Tennessee and Alabama.”
The indictment charges the following individuals with conspiring to distribute and possession with intent to distribute heroin and/or fentanyl:
Jamal Cooper, aka Jamal Jordan, aka J, aka Mal, 37, of Antioch, Tennessee;
Lonald Ector, aka J.R., 46, of San Bernardino, California;
Robert Gonzales, 29, of Fontana, California;
D’Ron Robinson, aka St. Louis, 25, of Jackson, Tennessee;
Karon Key Jordan, 34, of Gallatin, Tennessee;
Jasmond Foster, aka Jazz, 26, of Sheffield, Alabama;
William Earl Foster, Jr., aka Buck, 25, of Florence, Alabama;
Donquez Groves, aka Lewis Palmer, aka Little Donnie, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee;
Wilton Bailey, aka Willy Will, 38, of Nashville, Tennessee;
Clifford Woods, aka Wimpy, 55, of Gallatin, Tennessee;
Tommy E. Smith, 37, of Nashville, Tennessee;
Sheteeka Bryant, 34, of Nashville, Tennessee;
Eric Williams, aka E, 38, of Nashville, Tennessee;
Robert Foxx, aka D-Tay, aka Johnny, 28, of Nashville, Tennessee;
Darnell Finnels, aka Ski, aka Skeezy, 24, of Nashville, Tennessee;
Shawna Caroline Foster, 36, of Florence, Alabama;
Jerry Ray Cochran, aka J Ray, 40, of Florence, Alabama;
William Kimbrough III, aka Trey, 37, of Tuscumbia, Alabama;
Wallace Earl Coffey, aka Nephew, aka Beck, 27, of Sheffield, Alabama;
Wallace Beckwith, aka Duke, 47, of Florence, Alabama; and
Thomas Barnett, aka Ham, aka Hambone, 27, of Florence, Alabama.
The indictment also charges the following:
Knowingly conspiring to possess and discharge a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime:
Robert Noel, aka Kamp Trey, 22, of Nashville, Tennessee; Jamal Cooper, Eric Williams and Darnell Finnels.
Knowingly possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime: Jamal Cooper.
Knowingly possessing and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime: Darnell Finnels.
Knowingly possessing and intentionally distributing fentanyl; Jamal Cooper.
Knowingly possessing and intentionally distributing heroin: Jamal Cooper - three additional counts; Eric Williams - six additional counts; Robert Foxx - six additional counts; and Donquez Groves - one additional count.
Conspiring to distribute fentanyl resulting in the death of another person: Jamal Cooper, William Earl Foster, Shawna Caroline Foster and Jerry Ray Cochran.
If convicted, all defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Those charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl resulting in the death of another person face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years to life in prison.
This case was investigated by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department’s Specialized Investigations Division; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the 20th Judicial District Drug Task Force; the Lauderdale County, Alabama Drug Task Force; the Colbert County, Alabama Drug Task Force and the Florence, Alabama Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthias Onderak.
An indictment is merely an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
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.