News and Press Releases

Columbia Man Found Guilty of Hobbs Act Robbery, Drug Conspiracy and Firearm Charges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 9, 2013

Contact Person: William K. Witherspoon (803) 929-3000

Columbia, South Carolina -----United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that after a three-day jury trial in federal court, Virgil Lamonte Johnson, a/k/a “Ghetto”, age 38, of Columbia, South Carolina, was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine (21U.S.C § 846); conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery (18 U.S.C. § 951(a)); conspiracy to use/carry a firearm during and in furtherance of a crime of (18 U.S.C. § 924(o)); use/carrying of a firearm during and in furtherance of a crime of (18 U.S.C. § 924 (c)); and being a felon in possession of a (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)). United States District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie presided over the trial and will impose sentence after she has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

Evidence presented at the trial established that on September 25, 2012, a co-defendant of Johnson, Tarren Ramone Hughey, a prohibited person, sold a handgun and a quantity of crack cocaine to a confidential informant working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Thereafter, Hughey engaged in a conversation with the informant about a robbery of a kilogram of cocaine. Later, a plan was discussed in which Hughey, Johnson and a third co-defendant, Andre Brice were to conduct the robbery while armed with firearms. Agents with the ATF arrested Johnson, Hughey and Brice while enroute to the robbery. After their arrests, the agents found three (3) bulletproof vests, five (5) firearms, gloves and duct tape. Hughey and Brice plead guilty to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery and are awaiting sentencing by Judge Currie.

Mr. Nettles stated the maximum penalty Johnson can receive for conspiracy to possess 5 kilograms of cocaine is life imprisonment and a fine of $250,000; conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery carries a maximum penalty of twenty (20) years and a fine of $250,000; for conspiracy to use/carry a firearm during a crime of violence, Johnson faces a maximum penalty of twenty (20) years and a fine of $250,000; for the use/carrying of a firearm during a crime of violence, Johnson faces a mandatory minimum of five (5) years and a maximum LIFE, consecutive, to any other term of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000; and finally, for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, Johnson faces a maximum of ten (10) years and a fine of $250,000. Johnson must also pay a special assessment of $100 for each count of conviction.

The case was investigated by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state and local Project CeaseFire initiative, which aggressively prosecutes firearm cases. Assistant United States Attorneys William K. Witherspoon and Robert C. Jendron, Jr., of the Columbia office handled the case.

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