Multiple Defendants Sentenced Following Major Drug Investigation and Prosecution
MAR 20 -- HUNTSVILLE, AL - United States Attorney Alice H. Martin and Greg Borland, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today that United States District Court Judge Inge P. Johnson completed handing down a series of sentencings stemming from the indictment of thirty-three individuals in connection with a major long-term drug investigation. These sentences included the life sentence of Robert Michael EVANS of Warrior, Alabama, who was sentenced today. The 138 count indictment was returned in June, 2008, in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Alabama. The investigation stretched from Morgan and Madison counties and other areas in the Northern District of Alabama to Texas, California, and Mexico. The indictment followed the May 16, 2008, arrest of thirteen individuals in the same investigation, and all of those individuals were included in the indictment.
All of the defendants were charged with Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, and Marijuana. Additionally, three of the defendants + Reco WILLINGHAM, Galdino ZAMORA, and Edy DE LA PENA -- were charged with and convicted of conducting a Continuing Criminal Enterprise and were the source for hundreds of kilograms of cocaine which were brought into and distributed across the northern part of the State. Many of the defendants, including Reco WILLINGHAM, Galdino ZAMORA, and Robert Michael EVANS were convicted of and sentenced for additional federal drug offenses, firearms violations, Money Laundering, and Use of a Telephone in Furtherance of Drug Trafficking offenses. Many of the defendants were also ordered to forfeit sums of money ranging from $100,000 to $2,000,000 as proceeds of their unlawful drug trafficking activities.
In numerous sentencing hearings which began during the week of January 26, 2009, and continued on different days through today, United States District Court Judge Inge P. Johnson sentenced the defendants to the following terms of imprisonment:
Robert Michael EVANS, 32, of Warrior, Alabama - life sentence;
In sentencing EVANS to a term of life imprisonment today, Judge Johnson, as she had in several other sentencing hearings in this case, told the defendant that she has to remember the victims on the other side of the drug trade who become addicted to illegal drugs and the pain that it causes them and their families. As there is no parole in the federal system, EVANS’ term will be for the rest of his life, and the remaining defendants are expected to serve the majority of their prison terms before being released.
All of the defendants except EVANS were ordered to serve terms of supervised release once released from prison, and all of the defendants who are not U.S. citizens were ordered to be turned over to immigration officials for deportation after serving their prison terms. All but two of the sentenced defendants entered pleas of guilty after being indicted. Robert Michael EVANS and Yolonda GOODLOW were convicted after a jury trial which began on October 6, 2008. Two of the defendants charged in the indictment are yet to be sentenced by Judge Johnson, and four are fugitives from justice.
The investigation which led to the indictment, convictions, and sentences included the execution of 11 federal search warrants, the seizure of approximately 35 kilograms of cocaine, 85 pounds of marijuana, over $400,000 in currency, numerous firearms, and numerous vehicles. To date the defendants have been ordered to forfeit an additional $9,250,000 as proceeds of their illegal activities.
“These sentences, many of which are very long, represent the very serious consequences of engaging in drug trafficking and other illegal activities and should send a strong message to the community that the federal government is very serious about protecting the citizens of the Northern District of Alabama. They should also send a strong message to others involved in or thinking about becoming involved in such activities + you will be investigated, you will be prosecuted, you will be sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, and you will lose your property and your money,” stated U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin. “This joint state, local and federal investigation was headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration and was worked with the Huntsville/Madison County HIDTA - High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area-Program, and this prosecution significantly dismantled a large drug trafficking organization which operated in the Northern District of Alabama and received very large quantities of drugs from Texas, California, and Mexico. All of the investigators are to be commended for their hard work and long hours in investigating this case and working to keep these illegal drugs off our streets,” added Martin.
"The success of this complex investigation and the sentences handed down is a testimony to the outstanding working relationship between the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Madison-Morgan County HIDTA Task Force, the Huntsville Police Department, the Decatur Police Department, the Morgan County Sheriffs Department Drug Task Force, the Lauderdale County Drug Task Force, the Lawrence County Sheriffs Department, and the Colbert County Drug Task Force,” stated Greg Borland, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Agency. Borland went on to say, “The great work done by these dedicated law enforcement officers completely dismantled an organization that utilized the trucking industry to smuggle more than 600 kilograms of cocaine and thousands of pounds of marijuana from Mexico to Northern Alabama, and to smuggle millions of dollars in bulk currency back to Mexico. The fact that these defendants were stopped, are now going to prison, and lost the profits and proceeds of their illegal activities significantly affected the availability of drugs in the area."
In a prior statement made regarding this case, Rex Reynolds, Huntsville’s Deputy Mayor and former Director of Public Safety, stated, "This case is a prime example of multi-agency cooperation and coordination. The collaborative efforts of DEA, HIDTA, and other law enforcement agencies demonstrate how this kind of cooperation can make a difference and have a significant impact on drug trafficking in our community."
The investigation of this case was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Huntsville/Madison County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area-Program (HIDTA), Morgan County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Unit, Decatur Police Department, U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Lawrence County Drug Task Force, Lauderdale County Drug Task Force, Colbert County Drug Task Force, U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board as well as other law enforcement officers, and was and continues to be prosecuted by Russell Penfield and Jeff Anderson, Assistant United States Attorneys, on behalf of the government.