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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Final Defendant from “Open-Air” Illegal Drug Market Case Pleads Guilty

Seven Co-Defendants Convicted, Sentenced Earlier this Year

ALBANY, Ga. – The final defendant involved in a high-volume drug trafficking operation pleaded guilty to his crime.

Eddie Houston, 43, of McDonough, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine before U.S. District Judge Leslie Gardner on Nov. 15. Houston faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years up to a maximum term of life in prison to be followed by at least five years of supervised release and a maximum $10,000,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for X. There is no parole in the federal system.

“This conviction ends a lengthy multi-agency investigation which successfully ended a brazen and dangerous stop and shop selling high volumes of the deadliest drugs out in the open,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will hold the most egregious drug traffickers accountable for their crimes.”

“This case demonstrates the commitment of the FBI and our partners to end an epidemic in our society that is killing our citizens,” said Chris Macrae, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The fact that this defendant faces a potential life sentence is an example how serious this crime is and a warning to anyone else who is involved in drug trafficking that we will find and prosecute you.”

“These guilty pleas are a direct result of the dedicated efforts of the DEA and its law enforcement partners,” said Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division.  “The distribution of methamphetamine continues to ravage many communities across the country. Southwest Georgia and elsewhere are much safer because these drug traffickers have been removed from the streets.”

“This investigation illustrates that drug trafficking at any level will not be tolerated in the state of Georgia. It is paramount that violators of drug laws be held accountable. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is fully committed to working with our local and federal partners in drug enforcement to address these types of crimes,” said GBI Director Vic Reynolds.

“The efforts of the local, state and federal agencies involved are evident of the commitment to addressing crime in our neighborhoods. We will continue to use all resources available to remove those persons and groups intent on enabling the drug culture to exist and flourish within our community,” said Albany Police Chief Michael Persley.

According to court documents, Houston’s convicted co-defendants Sherrod Winchester and James Malone, 52, both of Albany, regularly obtained and distributed large quantities of a variety of controlled substances for distribution in Albany and Panama City, Florida, since May 2018. Under surveillance, GBI agents observed Houston and convicted co-defendant Shannon Mason, 41, of Leesburg, Georgia, who regularly acted as an illegal drug courier for Winchester and Malone, conducting an exchange with a man at a drug store parking lot in Stone Mountain, Georgia, in February 2020. Officers stopped and arrested Houston and Mason in possession of 1,106 grams of cocaine and 990 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride.

Winchester, Malone, and Mason—along with other co-defendants—were convicted and sentenced earlier this year for their roles in operating a high-volume drug trafficking operation in Albany. Winchester was sentenced to serve 300 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release after he previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute controlled substances; Malone was sentenced to serve 240 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to distribution of methamphetamine; and, Mason was sentenced to serve 75 months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release after she pleaded guilty to distribution of methamphetamine. To learn more about this case, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/usao-mdga/pr/southwest-georgian-sentenced-25-years-prison-operating-high-volume-open-air-illegal.

The case was investigated by the FBI, DEA, GBI and the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah McEwen prosecuted the case.

Updated November 17, 2021