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Friday - September 26, 2003

WILMINGTON - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that GENE ANTHONY BROWN, SR., 54, of Riegelwood, N. C., was sentenced in federal court in Wilmington, N. C., on Friday, September 26, 2003. Senior U. S. District Judge James C. Fox imposed a sentence of 166 months imprisonment and five years of supervised release. Also, he ordered BROWN to pay a fine of $4,500.00 and a $400.00 special assessment.

BROWN and six others were convicted on February 20, 2003, following a three-week jury trial. BROWN was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of cocaine base (crack); maintaining a place for the distribution of drugs; conspiracy to launder money; and money laundering.

According to evidence presented during the trial, BROWN lived in an area of Riegelwood near and beside other family members. He allowed his sons to store drugs and money in his house and to keep "stash" cars, used to hide drugs, on his property. He also permitted his sons to build a bar on his mother's property, which was used as a locale for drug distribution. BROWN also allowed his son, Antwand Demond Brown, to place vehicles in his name and used accounts at the Riegelwood Credit Union to funnel drug money to pay for vehicles.

All of BROWN's co-defendants at trial were convicted of various money laundering violations and were sentenced previously. They included: his daughter, Jowanna Laquetta Brown (22), who was sentenced to 78 months imprisonment; and his sister, Charlene Brown Hall (44), who was sentenced to 27 months imprisonment. Also convicted and sentenced were John Edward Kirk (59), who was sentenced to 41 months imprisonment; Cornelia Andrew Saulter (59), who was sentenced to 51 months imprisonment; Monique Saulter (35), who was sentenced to 33 months imprisonment; and Reginald Hatcher (32), who was sentenced to 41 months imprisonment.

BROWN's sons, Antwand Demond Brown (31) and Gene A. Brown, Jr. (35), along with five others, pled guilty to various drug and firearms charges in the indictment. Their sentences were as follows: Antwand Demond Brown, 290 months imprisonment; Gene A. Brown, Jr., 192 months imprisonment; Dion Saulter (25), 313 months imprisonment; William Bernard Bress (49), 90 months imprisonment; James Darren Robbins (34), 90 months imprisonment; Michael Jerome Cherry, Jr. (25), 130 months imprisonment; Terry Wayne Brown (47), 46 months imprisonment; and William Oree Brown (60), 37 months imprisonment.

U. S. Attorney Whitney stated that this case was significant not only because those persons who sold drugs were removed from the community, but because those persons who made their drug dealing worthwhile (by hiding property bought with drug money and having it titled in their names instead of the drug dealers') were removed from the community as well.

The evidence at trial showed that the defendants were involved in the purchases of more than 28 vehicles having a value of more than $1 million, including a Lexus, several Cadillac Escalades, several Mercedes-Benz vehicles (including an SUV (ML 320) and a Mercedes Benz S500), two Dodge Vipers, and a Jaguar. The vehicles were bought and then traded for other vehicles over a three-year period. The purchases were made at dealerships in Wilmington, Raleigh, and Cary, N. C., and in Florida. Some of the defendants provided Antwand Brown and Dion Saulter with powers-of-attorney to purchase the vehicles in their names, while others of the defendants went to the dealerships with Brown or Saulter, or by themselves. Several vehicles were purchased with large sums of currency, which resulted in the dealerships filing IRS forms to report the transactions. For instance, in a transaction in Florida, Dion Saulter paid $43,401.00 in currency for a Mercedes-Benz CL500, which was placed in the name of his mother, Cornelia Saulter. In another transaction, Monique Saulter, Dion's sister (who was then employed as a Public Information Assistant at Southeastern Center for Mental Health-Developmental Disability- Substances Abuse Services in Wilmington, N. C.), gave $26,270.00 in cash to a dealership in Cary, N. C., to purchase a Cadillac Escalade. Most of the transactions, however, consisted of trading in cars and using less than $10,000.00 in cash for the purchases. According to U. S. Attorney Whitney, one of the reasons that people sell drugs is to be able to purchase expensive items that otherwise they could not afford. Drug dealers know that if they are arrested, their property can be seized and forfeited by the federal government. Having relatives and friends title property in their names is an effort by the drug dealers to avoid such seizures. Due to the intensive investigation in this case, these efforts were thwarted and many vehicles were seized. Also, some real property bought by Antwand Brown is being forfeited.

Mr. Whitney stated, "We hope this case sends a message to the community that by helping drug dealers accumulate property, people become participants in the drug trade even if they do not see or touch the drugs themselves."

Investigation of this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case, "Operation Tri-Counties," was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshals Service, and the Columbus County Sheriff's Office. Assistant U. S. Attorney Christine Witcover Dean handled the case for the government.

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney's web page at within 48 hours of release.

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