Leader Sentenced in International Cocaine Smuggling Conspiracy
|June 21, 2012|
HOUSTON – A Nigerian man has been sentenced to a significant prison term for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. A federal jury convicted Ade Lawrence, 33, of Nigeria, following a five-day trial in March 2012.
Today, U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison handed Lawrence, considered a leader/organizer in the conspiracy, a 235-month term of imprisonment without parole. Lawrence is expected to face deportations proceedings following his release. At the hearing, the prosecutor explained to the court how Lawrence was a man who took advantage of vulnerable American woman to transport drugs for him internationally.
He was indicted along with co-defendants Monica Mitchell, 35, and Gwendolyn Free, 54, both of Austin, Texas, and Felicia Parker, 31, of Houston, were indicted in January 2011 for their involvement in a complex conspiracy of international cocaine smuggling. Parker was also convicted at trial while Free and Mitchell previously pleaded guilty.
At trial, the United States introduced text messages, emails and flight itineraries demonstrating Lawrence had orchestrated travel accommodations and narcotics pickups between co-defendants arrested in Brazil and Panama for attempting to smuggle more than five kilograms of cocaine destined for Europe. Mitchell and Free offered testimony implicating Lawrence and Parker’s knowledge of, and participation in, the conspiracy.
The defense asserted that Lawrence was not the individual target in the investigation and that Parker was merely visiting Panama, Brazil and London for vacation.
After less than an hour of deliberation, the jury returned its verdict, finding them both guilty as charged.
Lawrence has been in custody, where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Free and Mitchell were sentenced on May 29, 2012, to respective terms of 40 months and time served, each to be followed by three years of supervised release. Parker will sentenced on July 11, 2012, and was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The indictment and subsequent conviction came after an intensive investigation by Homeland Security Investigations in conjunction with the Brazilian and Panamanian Federal Police. Assistant United States Attorneys F. Andino Reynal and Craig Feazel prosecuted the case.