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Press Release

California Man Responsible for Distributing More Than 100 Kilos of Meth to More Than 10 States Receives 26 Years in Federal Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina

NEW BERN, N.C. – Joseph Willie Jr., 31, of California, was sentenced to 312 months in prison for his role as the leader of an armed, interstate methamphetamine trafficking organization known as the “Grape Street Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO).”

““We are dismantling violent drug trafficking organizations and putting their leaders behind bars,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “Gangs and cartels bringing poison into Raleigh and elsewhere in Eastern North Carolina will be met with the full force of federal law enforcement, no matter where they live.” 

““This was a significant investigation impacting public safety across multiple states,” said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Bennie Mims. “We know that local drug traffickers can contribute significantly to increased violent crime rates. To disrupt a drug trafficking network of this size has a large impact on making our communities safer in North Carolina, as well as communities across the country.” 

According to court documents, evidence presented in court and other documents, the Grape Street DTO imported large quantities of highly pure—and highly addictive—crystal methamphetamine from Mexico.

The DTO then distributed the drugs throughout the United States, including Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Willie Jr. was convicted of three counts: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine (Count One); distribution of more than 500 grams of a substance containing methamphetamine (Count Two); and conspiracy to commit money laundering by concealment (Count Three).

The investigation uncovered that from 2016 until the time of his arrest in 2020, Willie Jr. was responsible for distributing more than 100 kilograms of highly pure methamphetamine. From those sales, Willie Jr. received more than a million dollars in drug proceeds. 

Tanna Nash, Willie’s Jr. wife, received an additional quarter of million dollars in drug proceeds as a part of this organization. 

Between July 2020, and February 3, 2021, ATF Undercover Agents posing as a member of Willie Jr.’s inner circle made 6 controlled purchases of more than 3 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine from Willie Jr. 

ATF sent the money to Nash in California. After Nash received the money, Willie Jr. sent the methamphetamine to Raleigh and Kinston, North Carolina in pound- and two-pound increments.  

The organization primarily distributed the methamphetamine in Craven, Lenoir and Onslow counties.  At the time of his arrest, Willie Jr. was attempting to expand into Fayetteville, North Carolina.

In August 2018, Homeland Security Investigators (Border Enforcement Security Taskforce) made three controlled purchases totaling twelve pounds of methamphetamine in Tampa, Florida, which had been sent at the direction of Willie Jr.

According to information received from ATF Memphis as a part of this investigation, Willie Jr. was a member of the Grape Street Crips, a violent street gang.

According to information obtained as a part of this three-year investigation, methamphetamine distributors in the different states including members and associates of the Grape Street Crips would contact Willie Jr. and place orders for methamphetamine to be shipped to them.  

Willie Jr. would provide how to make the payments using various methods including wire transfers, peer-to-peer payment software, and national banks (deposited in one state and withdrawn by a different person in California) to avoid detection.

Willie Jr. had at least nine people in California receiving drug proceeds from other states; those proceeds were then funneled to Willie Jr. 

On October 24, 2022, Tanna Nash was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison for Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine and Distribution of more than 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine.

This is part of Operation Fighting Jellyfish, which is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launders, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. 

Operation “Fighting Jellyfish” was also recognized for a Special Achievement Award by the North Carolina Gang Investigators Association.

Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (Wilmington, North Carolina, Memphis, Tennessee and California), Homeland Security Investigations (Tampa (B.E.S.T. Unit) and California), Drug Enforcement Administration (California, North Carolina, Missouri and Ohio), the United States Marshal Service, the Craven, Duplin and Onslow County Sheriffs’ Offices and the Kinston, Goldsboro and New Bern Police Departments and the Los Angeles Police Department investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney  Timothy Severo  prosecuted the case.

Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:21-cr-00021-FL-1.


Updated October 28, 2022

Drug Trafficking