Skip to main content
Press Release

Defendant sentenced for trafficking methamphetamine from prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Georgia

ATLANTA - Ricardo Silva, a current inmate at Smith State Prison and a high-ranking member of the Sureños prison gang, has been sentenced to 35 years in federal prison for trafficking methamphetamine.  He is currently serving a sentence with the state of Georgia for trafficking cocaine.

“Silva’s time in state prison did not deter him from continuing his drug trafficking activity,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Instead of learning his lesson from his cocaine-trafficking conviction, Silva chose to continue building a drug-trafficking network with methamphetamine, but he will now face the consequences of his crime with a lengthy sentence in federal prison.

“The mission of DEA is unwavering - we combat drug traffickers - to include those who “push” drugs on the streets while incarcerated,” said Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Filed Division.  “In the end, these substances cause immeasurable damage to communities. Today’s sentencing is a perfect example of how the law enforcement community and the U.S. Attorney’s Office work together to keep deserving criminals like Silva behind bars.”

“Methamphetamine continues to ravage many communities in our nation,” said Daniel R. Salter, the Executive Director of the Atlanta-Carolinas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).  “Because of the positive results yielded in this case, the sentencing of Silva should serve as a stern warning to others, that whether you seek to push methamphetamine on the streets or while incarcerated, you will ultimately be brought to justice.”

“We are especially proud of our agents and investigators who proactively identified the criminal enterprise being conducted by Silva, and worked tirelessly with our partners at the federal, state, and local levels to expose his actions,” said Gregory C. Dozier, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections. “This is yet another example of why we appreciate the support and assistance of our law enforcement partners, as we continue to work together in our commitment to expose those who pose a threat to the safety of the citizens of Georgia and ensure justice is served.”

“Criminals who are able to operate inside prisons and conduct this level of criminal activity are a direct threat to the safety of the public,” said GBI Director Vernon Keenan. “The GBI is fully committed to working with the state and federal partners to address this type of crime.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: Since January 2010, Ricardo Silva has been serving a state sentence for trafficking cocaine. Georgia Department of Corrections officials believed that Silva was – and still is – one of the highest-ranking Georgia members of the Sureños, a dangerous gang with a strong presence in state and federal correctional facilities across the United States.

In 2016, federal agents with HIDTA and the DEA began investigating Silva for trafficking drugs while he was incarcerated in Smith State Prison.  Over the course of the investigation, agents learned that Silva obtained access to a contraband cellphone, despite being segregated from the general population for 23 hours a day.  Silva was able to thwart the prison’s security features designed to prevent inmates from making calls on unauthorized devices.

Agents used a variety of investigative techniques, including a federal wiretap of Silva’s contraband cellphone, to uncover his drug trafficking activities. During the investigation, they seized or found evidence of more than 100 pounds of methamphetamine in liquid and crystal form. Silva coordinated deliveries of this methamphetamine with a source of supply based in Mexico.

Law enforcement officers also conducted a traffic stop after observing one of Silva’s co-conspirators making a drug transaction, finding a firearm and approximately six pounds of crystal methamphetamine at the scene.  Silva’s drug distribution network consisted of family members, former prisoners, and other recruits.

Ricardo Silva, 45, of Lawrenceville, Georgia was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr., to 35 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine, possessing with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Silva was found guilty by a jury on April 18, 2018.

The following defendants have also been convicted in the conspiracy:

●Victor Alfonso Gattan, a/k/a LA, age 33, of Gwinnett County, Georgia, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on July 10, 2018 to 12 years in federal prison for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine;

●Anthony Sandoval, a/k/a Tony, age 25, of Monroe, Georgia, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine on April 30, 2018, and is awaiting sentencing;

●Lydia Beck, a/k/a Lady, age 26, of McDonough, Georgia, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine on December 12, 2017, and is awaiting sentencing;

●Fernando Betancourt, a/k/a Scrappy, age 33, or Douglasville, Georgia, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine on March 5, 2018, and is awaiting sentencing; and

●Leslie Nelson, age 38, of Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on September 22, 2017 to 15 years in state prison for trafficking methamphetamine and possession of a weapon during a crime in the Superior Court of Clayton County.

This case was investigated by the Atlanta-Carolina High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia State Patrol, and the Atlanta Police Department.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas N. Joy and Assistant U.S Attorneys Jennifer Whitfield and Vivek Kothari prosecuted the case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta recommends that parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following web site:

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is

Updated July 20, 2018

Drug Trafficking