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Press Release

Two Life Sentences for DTO Leader Guilty of Massive Drug Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Georgia
Defendant Directed 2,000 Kilos of Cocaine from Mexico; $3.16M Cash, 73 Firearms, Kilos of Fentanyl, Meth, Crack Cocaine and Other Drugs Seized

MACON, Ga. – The leader of a violent drug trafficking organization (DTO) who directed approximately 2,000 kilograms of cocaine from Mexico into the U.S.—much of which was distributed into the Middle District of Georgia—was sentenced to two life sentences in prison for his crimes today.

Albert Ross aka “Big,” 53, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, was sentenced to serve the statutory maximum of life imprisonment for each count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana for which he pleaded guilty on Jan. 22. In addition, Ross was ordered to serve five years of supervised release and pay a $1 million fine by U.S. District Judge Tilman “Tripp” Self III on June 10. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Keeping our communities safe is our office’s highest priority,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “These life sentences for Albert Ross help to accomplish this goal, thanks to the incredible dedication and courage displayed by our law enforcement partners at the federal, state and local level to shut down this violent drug trafficking organization and hold its leader accountable.”

“Albert Ross deserves every day in prison that he has been sentenced after distributing such a huge amount of drugs into Middle Georgia,” said FBI Atlanta’s Macon Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Robert Gibbs. “FBI Atlanta and our partners across the state will continue to work non-stop to put drug dealers behind bars and stop them from inflicting pain and violence in our communities.”

“The guns, drugs and violence are unfortunately all too common tools of drug traffickers,” said Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Division. “Today’s announcement demonstrates DEA’s emphatic commitment to attacking the drug dealers responsible for the devastation in our communities.”

“Cases like this exemplify the value of partnerships between local, state and federal agencies,” said Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Jerry Saulters. “The volume of dangerous drugs, not to mention the firearms and acts of violence, impact our communities beyond comprehension. The sentence in this case should be a stern message to the traffickers who bring their poison into our community and threaten the livelihood of our residents.”

According to the stipulation of fact read in court and other documents, Ross admitted that he was the leader of a large-scale drug trafficking organization, which was responsible for importing approximately 2,000 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S. from Mexico, along with other illegal drugs. Large amounts of cocaine was distributed by Ross’s DTO into the Middle District of Georgia. The FBI-Athens Resident Agency initiated a long-term investigation focused primarily on Ross’s cocaine distribution activities. Through the use of many investigative techniques including wiretaps, physical surveillance, vehicle trackers and confidential informants, agents identified a network of individuals associated with Ross’s DTO. 

Working with co-conspirators, investigators discovered that Ross directed individuals to transport large quantities of cocaine from Texas to be distributed to Ross’s customers and associates. Ross’s DTO was supplied cocaine by a source in Mexico affiliated with the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). Money for the cocaine purchases was given to couriers in Atlanta who would then deliver the money to Ross’s cocaine supplier in Mexico.

Agents learned that Ross and co-conspirators flew to Mexico City in August 2019 to meet with Ross’s CJNG cocaine supplier and his cartel boss to negotiate a deal where they would supply Ross’s DTO with 200 additional kilograms of cocaine per month. A text string found on Ross’s seized iPhone detailed that in under a one-month period between March 14 and April 4, 2020, Ross was supplied with 112 kilograms of cocaine. During the same period, Ross sent more than $2.5 million in payment for the drugs to his cocaine source in Mexico. Additional evidence revealed that in a three-month period in 2018, Ross received 1,300 kilograms of cocaine from a different Mexican supplier. Once the cocaine arrived in the Atlanta area, Ross stashed the dope at an elderly family member’s home, who had previously been shot picking up drug proceeds at Ross’s direction.

Co-defendants Lonnie Bennett, 44, of Atlanta, and Brandon Payne, 30, of Atlanta, sold cocaine supplied by Ross out of their stash house on Pittman Road in College Park, Georgia. Co-defendant TaMichael Darden, 43, of Athens, Georgia, made over twenty trips from Athens to the Pittman Road stash house to purchase cocaine that he later sold throughout the Middle District of Georgia.

Ross is tied to past large drug seizures in Georgia. In March 2018, Ross and his business partner purchased approximately $4 million of cocaine for transport from Texas to Georgia; a tractor trailer was stopped on I-20 by a Georgia trooper, who found 152 kilograms of cocaine in a false wall inside the transport truck. Following the cocaine seizure, Ross asked another co-conspirator to kill the person responsible for overseeing the intercepted drug load. The co-conspirator refused the murder order. In Dec. 2018, DEA agents received information from a confidential source that Ross was moving a large amount of cash from illegal drug sales from Atlanta to California using private aircraft. Agents observed men leave Ross’s Bouldercrest Road stash house and board a plane at Peachtree Dekalb Airport with four suitcases and two backpacks. DEA and FBI agents in California were waiting and seized more than $2 million in drug proceeds from the luggage.

In addition, Ross tasked co-conspirators with transporting and distributing large shipments of marijuana from “Murder Mountain,” a region in Humboldt County, California, known for its marijuana production. For example, 24,000 pounds of marijuana was shipped over eight trips from California to Georgia as directed by Ross. Significant amounts were distributed to dealers in the Middle District of Georgia, including co-defendant Reginald Battle, Sr., 49, of Statham, Georgia.

Ross was ultimately arrested on Sept. 23, 2021, at his home in Stone Mountain. Agents found more than $300,000 in cash wrapped in tinfoil and vacuum sealed in black trash bags inside Ross’s bedroom closet. Inside an Atlanta area bar owned by Ross, agents seized more than $600,000 in drug proceeds. As part of this entire investigation, law enforcement seized $3,164,210 cash, 73 firearms, 165.22 kilos of cocaine, 1.32 kilograms of fentanyl, 11.25 ounces of heroin, 1.39 kilograms of crack cocaine, 12.57 lbs. of crystal methamphetamine, 25.35 lbs. of marijuana and 198 dosage units of controlled pharmaceuticals. Ross admits his DTO is responsible for importing approximately 2,000 kilograms of cocaine from Mexico into the U.S. for distribution in Georgia. Ross has a prior felony drug conviction in Fulton County, Georgia, Superior Court and numerous felony arrests for drug trafficking.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at

The case was investigated by FBI Atlanta – Athens RA Middle Georgia Safe Streets Gang Task Force, DEA, Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Northeast Georgia Regional Drug Task Force, GBI, Georgia Department of Community Supervision, Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia Department of Revenue, Georgia State Patrol, Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Gwinnett County Police Department, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, Oglethorpe County Sheriff's Office, Rockdale County Sheriff's Office, Atlanta Police Department, Brookhaven Police Department, Cobb County Police Department, DeKalb County Police Department, Henry County Police Department, Marietta Police Department and South Fulton Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mike Morrison and Tamara Jarrett prosecuted the case for the Government.

Updated June 10, 2024

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses