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Press Release

Charles Elsea, Jr., Leader Of A Prison Gang, Sentenced To Life In Prison For Drug And Money Laundering Offenses

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

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – On August 8, 2022, Charles Elsea, Jr., 44, a longtime inmate of the Tennessee Department of Corrections, was sentenced to life in prison by the Honorable J. Ronnie Greer, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville.

Following a six-day jury trial in March 2022, Elsea was convicted by a jury of Conspiracy to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Actual Methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and (b)(1)(A); Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and (b)(1)(C); Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(i).

During sentencing, Judge Greer found that Elsea was responsible for distributing over 56.8 kilograms of methamphetamine.  Elsea was ordered to forfeit $1,263,490.00, which represented the illegal proceeds from distributing methamphetamine and money laundering.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Elsea was serving a prison sentence for First Degree Murder for a 1996 homicide in Hamilton County, Tennessee when he rose through the ranks to become the State President of the Brotherhood Forever, a Tennessee based prison gang.  Elsea led the drug trafficking organization from behind prison walls using smuggled cellphones to conduct his business on the outside.  Elsea orchestrated multi-kilo methamphetamine deals that involved methamphetamine being transported from California and Arizona to Tennessee.  Elsea and his coconspirators used the drug proceeds from the methamphetamine sales to create marijuana grow houses in and out of Tennessee.  Elsea was also involved in starting two marijuana grow operations during the pendency of this case, utilizing the jail’s video system to speak to coconspirators about the cultivation of marijuana.

The case was the result of a five-year investigation that began in the spring of 2017 by the Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations (“DHS-HSI”), the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), and the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”).  Other agencies involved with the investigation included the Tennessee Department of Correction Office of Investigations and Conduct; the Elizabethton and Carter County Joint Drug Task Force; the Huron Undercover Narcotic Team with the Michigan State Police; the Arkansas Highway Patrol; the Missouri Western Interdiction Task Force with the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department; and the California Visalia Police Department.  This investigation was led by HSI Special Agent John Bulla.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meghan L. Gomez and J. Christian Lampe represented the United States at sentencing.

This investigation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, 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.



Rachelle Barnes
Public Affairs Officer
(865) 545-4167

Updated August 8, 2022

Drug Trafficking
Financial Fraud