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Press Release

Member of Large Drug Trafficking Operation Sentenced to Federal Prison for Drug Trafficking

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Louisiana

United States Attorney Brandon J. Fremin announced today the sentencing of Byron A. Lawson, age 40, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as part of Operation Hidden Fee, an extensive federal, state, and local investigation by the Middle District Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) aimed at a drug trafficking network based and operating in Baton Rouge.   

Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick sentenced Lawson to 125 months in federal prison following his convictions of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine base; distribution of methamphetamine and crack cocaine; and unlawful use of a communications facility.  Lawson must also serve five years of supervised release following his term of imprisonment.  

According to admissions Lawson made as part of his guilty plea, in 2017, the Drug Enforcement Administration and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office were investigating the drug trafficking activities of James C. Hull.  During this investigation, they learned that Lawson was one of Hull’s suppliers of methamphetamine.  Investigators gathered information that, on the average, Lawson supplied Hull, four to six ounces of methamphetamine on a weekly basis.  Law enforcement agents also identified Michael Nelson, another customer, who received ounce amounts of methamphetamine from Lawson.  During this investigation, agents identified Travis James as a source of cocaine and crack cocaine for Lawson.  In one instance, James supplied Lawson over 500 grams of cocaine, which Lawson distributed later to two customers from Mississippi. 

Nelson has pending methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking charges in the Middle District of Louisiana.  Trial has not yet been set.   A grand jury indicted Travis James for various cocaine and heroin related violations and his trial is set in April 2020. 

U.S. Attorney Fremin stated, “Stopping organized drug dealers who spread their poison throughout our community is among the highest priorities of this office and the United States Department of Justice.  Convictions and jail sentences such as this are made possible through the dedicated teamwork of our federal, state, and local partners.  I want to thank them all for their efforts in this case.”

"With this conviction and sentencing, DEA and its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners have taken down a member of a drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing large quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine in the Middle District of Louisiana. These illegal dangerous drugs are destructive poisons that threaten the health and safety of our communities.  We will continue to work together to target criminal organizations to ensure that drug traffickers are held responsible for the harm they cause," said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael R. Sader.

“The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office is grateful for the U.S. Attorney’s commitment to prosecuting these cases on the federal level,” Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said.  “We will continue to dedicate our personnel and resources to initiatives that ensure the safety of our community.”

The investigation is yet another effort by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program, which was established in 1982 to mount a comprehensive attack against organized drug traffickers.  Today, the OCDETF Program is the centerpiece of the United States Attorney General’s drug strategy to reduce the availability of drugs by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations and money laundering organizations and related criminal enterprises.  The OCDETF Program operates nationwide and combines the resources and unique expertise of numerous federal, state, and local agencies in a coordinated attack against major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.       

This investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration with invaluable assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Baton Rouge City Police Department, and the Louisiana State Police.  Other agencies also assisted in apprehending the defendants, including the U.S. Marshal’s Service, and the Sheriffs’ Offices in Ascension, Iberville, and West Baton Rouge Parishes. 

These cases were being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Piedrahita and Lyman E. Thornton III, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Cal Leipold.

Updated January 21, 2020

Drug Trafficking