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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 21, 2021

Southwest Georgian Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison for Operating High-Volume Open Air Illegal Drug “Market”

ALBANY, Ga. – The leader of a high-volume illegal drug trafficking operation located in a southwest Georgia city was sentenced to federal prison.

Sherrod Winchester, 39, of Albany, was sentenced to serve 300 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release on Wednesday, October 20, by U.S. District Judge Leslie Gardner after he previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute controlled substances. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Sherrod Winchester’s sentencing concludes a lengthy investigation into a stop and shop serving dozens of addicts daily who could easily access methamphetamine, heroin and diverted pharmaceuticals. Winchester’s prolific operation caused community-wide harm,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Federal, state and local investigators successfully held Winchester and his co-defendants accountable for their brazen crime and prevented further harm to a neighborhood, users and their families.”

“Because of the results of this case the communities in southwest Georgia will be significantly safer," said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. "The lengthy sentence received by Winchester serves as an example of the FBI and our law enforcement partners commitment to end the opioid crisis and severely punish anyone involved in contributing to it."

“Drug traffickers are a menace to society, which holds true for a prolific poly-drug trafficker like Mr. Winchester,” said DEA Atlanta Field Division Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Murphy. “He attempted to elude justice, but because of the perseverance and tenacity of all law enforcement agencies involved, he was ultimately apprehended. He, and his co-defendants, will now spend well-deserved time in prison.”

“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.

“Here is another example of how we can utilize local, state and federal resources to address the challenges of drug dealing within our community. These persons continued to disregard the quality of life in their neighborhood by breaking laws meant to protect people from hurt, harm and danger. The victims of these crimes need comprehensive substance abuse treatment and a long-term recovery program. More people may look for a profitable return on drug dealing, but we want them to understand the consequences that come with it,” said Albany Police Chief Michael Persley.

The following co-defendants have been sentenced:

James Malone, 51, of Albany, 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;

Laura Ann Dungee-Ali, 49, of Albany, was sentenced to serve 180 months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release after she pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug-involved premises;

William Raymond Cook, 46, of Albany, was sentenced to serve 151 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute hydrocodone;

Shannon Marie Mason, 39, of Leesburg, Georgia, 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;

Anthony Dewayne Pearson, 42, of Sylvester, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute hydrocodone; and,

Patricia Odom, 50, of Albany, was sentenced to serve 12 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

According to court documents, in 2019, Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit (ADDU) detectives identified defendants Malone and Winchester as significant distributors of methamphetamine and heroin. As a result, GBI, DEA and FBI initiated a joint investigation into the distribution of controlled substances at 520 9th Avenue, Albany, Georgia. The location was an open-air drug market run by Malone and Winchester, dispensing diverted pharmaceutical medications, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and other controlled substances. On a daily basis, the location maintained a large volume of foot and vehicle traffic, approximately twenty cars or more, with the visits lasting no more than a few minutes. Customers would approach a covered shelter to acquire illegal drugs, in a manner similar to a drive-thru window at a fast-food restaurant. Confidential sources were recorded making purchases of these illegal drugs from several of the co-defendants. Co-defendant Mason admitted to transporting large quantities of illegal substances at the behest of Winchester. Mason was taken into custody with more than a kilo of cocaine and more than a kilo of crystal methamphetamine in her vehicle. More than $40,000 in drug proceeds were seized from Malone’s residence. The drug house operated almost continuously from 2015 until late 2020 or early 2021.

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 October 21, 2021