New York Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Federal Prison for Cocaine Conspiracy and Firearms Charges
Burlington, VT – The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that on February 8, 2011, Samuel Jones, 48, was sentenced to serve 20 years in federal prison after he pled guilty to conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha, sitting in Brattleboro, also sentenced Jones to five years of supervised release following his prison term. Prior to his incarceration, Jones lived in Granville, New York.
Jones faced a maximum prison term of life on the cocaine and firearms charges. The cocaine conspiracy conviction also carried a mandatory minimum prison term of ten years and the conviction for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime carried a 5-year mandatory minimum. Under federal law, these mandatory minimum prison terms must be served consecutively. Jones therefore faced a mandatory minimum of 15 years in federal prison on the charges. Under the federal Sentencing Guidelines, Jones' recommended term of imprisonment was 420 months to life. In imposing a sentence below this range, Judge Murtha considered, among other factors, Jones' reported health problems.
According to court records, Jones between 2006 and his arrest in July of 2007, Jones regularly trafficked large quantities of cocaine from his source in the Albany area of New York to upstate New York and Vermont where he re-sold it. During the same time, Jones provided handguns that he had acquired in Vermont to his cocaine source in New York. Jones also regularly carried a handgun on his person while dealing cocaine.
Jones' criminal record includes a 1990 felony conviction in New York for the attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance, a 1996 felony conviction in New York for the criminal possession of narcotics, and a 2003 felony conviction in Vermont for retail theft. As a convicted felon, Jones was prohibited from possessing firearms. He obtained most of his guns in Vermont through straw purchasers whom he paid in either cash or cocaine.
On July 2, 2007, Vermont State Police detectives, who had a warrant for Jones' arrest, confronted him outside a motel on Lake Bomoseen in Castleton. Jones ignored the detectives' orders to surrender himself and instead drove his SUV toward them. One of the detectives fired a single shot from his sidearm into the tire of Jones' SUV. Despite this, Jones led law enforcement officers from the State Police and multiple departments on a dangerous chase around Lake Bomoseen. Twice during the chase, Jones drove in the wrong direction on U.S. Route 4, causing other vehicles to swerve and avoid him. While fleeing police, Jones threw quantities of cocaine out of his SUV windows. Jones eventually crashed his vehicle on the Route 4 overpass that spans Lake Bomoseen. He then leapt from the overpass into the lake. State Police officers commandeered a boat and were able to take Jones into custody. Hundreds of grams of cocaine, handgun ammunition, and approximately $13,600 were seized from Jones' SUV.
Also according to court documents, after his arrest on July 2, 2007, Jones twice met with federal law enforcement and officials from the U.S. Attorney's Office. During these meetings, which occurred on July 31 and August 2, 2007, Jones provided information about what he claimed was an terrorist threat in Albany, New York. According to Jones, his cocaine supplier was associated with an Albany-area mosque whose imam had recently been convicted of federal crimes. Jones claimed that, in revenge for that conviction, his cocaine supplier was planning to bomb a government target in Albany. To that end, the cocaine supplier asked Jones to obtain liquid fertilizer that was to be used to build a bomb. Jones told federal officials that the bomb attack in Albany was to occur soon. After extensive investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, working in conjunction with the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), established that Jones' story about the terrorist threat was false. Evidence regarding Jones' false claim of an imminent terrorist attack was presented for Judge Murtha's consideration at sentencing.
United States Attorney Tristram J. Coffin commended the many law enforcement agencies who worked together to apprehend Jones and investigate his crimes, including the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Southern Vermont Drug Task Force, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Vermont State Police, the New York State Police, the Rutland County Sheriff's Department, the Castleton Police Department, the Fair Haven Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff's Department in New York, and the Albany Police Department.
The prosecutor is Assistant United States Attorney Timothy C. Doherty, Jr. Samuel Jones is represented by Kerry DeWolfe from the Barre law firm Rubin Kidney Myer & DeWolfe.