September 30, 2011
Department of Justice
United States Attorney William C. Killian Eastern District of Tennessee
ADDITIONAL DEFENDANTS SENTENCED IN MAJOR COCAINE TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION OPERATING IN THE TRI-CITIES AREA
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - Keith Paris Ruffin, 47, of Johnson City, Tenn., and Utica, N.Y., and Ronnie Cooper, 36, of Utica, N.Y., were sentenced by the Honorable Leon Jordan, U.S. District Court Judge, on September 29, 2011, to each serve 360 months in prison for their roles in a cocaine trafficking organization operating in the Tri-Cities area.
Following a four-week trial in U.S. District Court, Greeneville, a jury convicted Ruffin, Cooper and co-defendants Sunnah Maddox, Lee Carr, Adrian Dorsey, Jason Dejesus and Kelly Miller of numerous federal drug trafficking charges. Both Ruffin and Cooper were also convicted, along with Maddox, of money laundering and witness tampering conspiracies. Maddox received a sentence of life in prison earlier this week. Carr, Dejesus, Dorsey and Miller were previously sentenced to prison terms of 235, 240, 120 and 78 months respectively.
On July 6, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Leon Jordan entered an order of forfeiture for a money judgment against Maddox, Carr and Cooper in the total amount of $7,000,000.00 in U.S. currency, which represents the proceeds from the sale of cocaine, cocaine base (“crack”) and marijuana obtained and the money laundered during the course of the conspiracy by the various co-defendants.
According to evidence presented at trial, in February 2008, Johnson City Police Officers and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents arrested an individual who was known by local law enforcement agents to be part of a group of drug traffickers who had moved to Johnson City, Tenn., from Utica, N.Y., for the sole purpose of distributing cocaine and crack cocaine. A recorded telephone call from this individual monitored by law enforcement was made to Maddox to order a half-kilogram of cocaine. This led to the DEA obtaining a court-authorized wire tap for Maddox’s phone. Maddox operated his drug organization from his residences in both Johnson City and Utica. Using coded conversation known as “Supreme Mathematics” over the telephone, Maddox and other members of the conspiracy recruited couriers to transport kilogram quantities of cocaine, as well as large amounts of U.S. currency from Johnson City to Atlanta, Florida, and New York. The cocaine was then cooked into crack cocaine for distribution in the Johnson City area. During the investigation, agents conducted undercover drug purchases from members of the conspiracy, and made traffic stops on organization members which resulted in the seizure of tens of thousands of dollars. The investigation culminated in the execution of search warrants on May 7, 2009, during which approximately a kilo and a half of cocaine and over $21,000.00 were seized. Maddox and many of his other co-defendants were soon thereafter arrested. From jail, Maddox, communicated with a co-defendant whom he suspected of cooperating with law enforcement agents, and threatened to take action against this individual if he testified against him at trial. Maddox communicated this information to conspiracy members Cooper and Ruffin, and in a recorded conversation, Maddox directed a “green light” on this individual. An FBI cryptanalyst forensic examiner, who analyzed the coded conversations used by Maddox and other members of the conspiracy, testified at trial that the “green light” issued by Maddox during the telephone call was an order to kill or cause serious bodily harm to this individual.
Evidence showed that Maddox’s organization was responsible for the distribution of over 40 kilograms of crack cocaine and dozens of kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride in the Tri-Cities area of upper east Tennessee.
Law enforcement agencies participating in the investigation which led to indictment and subsequent conviction of Sunnah Maddox, Lee Carr, Kelly Miller, Adrian Dorsey, Ronnie Cooper, Jason Dejesus, and Keith Ruffin included the DEA, Johnson City Police Department, Washington County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Department, First Judicial District Drug Task Force, Tennessee Highway Patrol and various law enforcement officers in New York State including the New York State Police, Utica, New York Police Department and New York DEA and FBI offices. Brian Vicchio, assigned to the DEA task force by the Johnson City Police Department was the lead investigator. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wayne Taylor and Robert Reeves represented the United States.
“All members of this criminal enterprise, involving various drug and other crimes, have received, and deserved, the most serious punishment that the federal justice system can provide. Local, state and federal authorities worked together to achieve these results,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Killian.
This case was part of the Department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) programs. OCDETF is the primary weapon of the United States against the highest level drug trafficking organizations operating within the United States, importing drugs into the United States, or laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking. The HIDTA program enhances and coordinates drug control efforts among local, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies. The program provides agencies with coordination, equipment, technology, and additional resources to combat drug trafficking and its harmful consequences in critical regions of the United States.