DOJ SealDepartment of Justice

United States Attorney Rebecca A. Gregory
Eastern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                               CONTACT:  DAVILYN WALSTON
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2009                                        PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER                                PHONE: (409) 839-2538 CELL: (409) 553-9881


            BEAUMONT, TX – U.S. Attorney Rebecca A. Gregory announced today that a 35-year-old Mont Belvieu, Texas man has pleaded guilty to federal drug and firearms violations in the Eastern District of Texas. 

JOEL FRANCOIS JEAN pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime today before U.S. District Judge Ron Clark.  Jean changed his plea to guilty this morning, just moments before jury selection was scheduled to begin.

            According to information presented in court, on Aug. 6, 2007, members of the Harris County Sheriff's Office and Houston Police Department began surveillance of suspected narcotics trafficking activity around a Mont Belvieu, Texas, motel.  Further investigation revealed that the smugglers were visiting a nearby apartment where they were loading cocaine and marijuana into two rental cars bound for Orlando, Florida.  After the officers notified law enforcement in Jefferson County, Texas, Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputies and Beaumont Police Officers conducted traffic stops on the rental cars yielding approximately 200 pounds of marijuana and 2.5 kilograms of cocaine. The rental cars were occupied by four Florida men--Michael Ephraim Watkins, Mario Jose Gutierrez, Raymero Mills, and Ikareem Man Lamar.

            Chambers/Liberty County, Texas, Narcotics Task Force Officers subsequently searched the apartment and seized suspected cocaine and marihuana residue and wrappings, two semi-automatic assault-type rifles, one 9mm pistol, surveillance equipment and approximately $93,000 in cash, as well as several items indicating the apartment was occupied and controlled by Joel Francois Jean.  Further investigation revealed that Watkins, Gutierrez, Mills, and Lamar traveled from Orlando, Florida, to Mont Belvieu to purchase drugs from Jean.  All five men were indicted by a federal grand jury on July 16, 2008 and charged with drug and firearms violations. 

            Jean faces up to Life in federal prison.  A sentencing date has not been set. Watkins, Gutierrez, Mills and Lamar pleaded guilty and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 46 to 120 months in federal prison.

            This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Beaumont Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the Chambers County Sheriff's Office, the Liberty County Sheriff's Office, the Harris County Sheriff's Office, and the Houston Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ross.


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