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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of West Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Two More Defendants Plead Guilty for Roles in Federal Drug Conspiracy

Defendants are latest to plead guilty out of nearly two dozen indicted after long-term narcotics investigation

 

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. – Two men pled guilty today for their roles in a drug trafficking conspiracy, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart. James Rodney Staples, 39, of Woodbridge, VA, entered his guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, more than 280 grams of cocaine base, and more than one kilogram of heroin.  Esau Burnette, 38, of Beckley, entered his guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 28 grams of cocaine base, and a quantity of cocaine.  Staples and Burnette are two of 23 defendants indicted in June 2017 after a comprehensive investigation of drug trafficking in Southern West Virginia.

U.S. Attorney Stuart commended the cooperative investigative efforts of several agencies, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Raleigh County Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Beckley Police Department, the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department, the West Virginia State Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the United States Postal Inspection Service also provided assistance throughout the investigation. 

“A drug trafficking network has been dismantled as a result of this long-term, cooperative investigation. Along with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners we will continue to take down networks of traffickers pedaling dangerous drugs in our communities,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.

James Rodney Staples admitted that between August 2016 and June 28, 2017, he took part in a drug trafficking conspiracy with multiple participants involving the distribution of cocaine, cocaine base, also known as “crack,” and heroin.  Staples admitted that Velarian Carter, another co-defendant in this case, requested his help in operating the drug trafficking organization while Carter was incarcerated on other drug charges.  Staples admitted he paid other members to assist him in distributing the controlled substances and to collect money acquired through the illegal drug trafficking.  As part of the agreement, Staples agreed to the forfeiture of $50,000, which represented proceeds of his illegal drug trafficking activity.     

Esau Burnette admitted that between August 2016 and June 28, 2017, he participated in a drug trafficking organization that distributed cocaine and more than 28 grams of cocaine base, or “crack,” in and around Beckley, Raleigh County, West Virginia.  Burnette admitted to assisting in manufacturing cocaine into “crack.”  During this time he admitted to distributing and possessing with intent to distribute approximately 20 ounces  of cocaine.  Burnette further admitted that on June 28, 2017, police officers executed a search warrant at his residence in Beckley.  Officers found $2,797 in cash, and a quantity of “crack.”  Burnette admitted that the cash was obtained through the illegal drug trafficking activity and has agreed to forfeit the cash to the United States. 

Staples faces at least 10 years and up to life, and Burnette faces at least five years and up to 40 years in federal prison, when they are sentenced on May 30, 2018.

Several individuals implicated as a result of this investigation have entered guilty pleas to drug charges and are awaiting sentencing. Cheyenne Fragale and Macon Fragale, two brothers from Boomer in Fayette County, face a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison when they are sentenced on March 14, 2018. Velarian Carter, of Beckley, faces a mandatory minimum of not less than 20 years and up to life in federal prison when he is sentenced on April 17, 2018. Dominic Copney, of Beckley, faces a mandatory minimum of five and up to 40 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on April 17, 2018. Detria Carter, of Beckley, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of not less than five and up to 40 years in federal prison when she is sentenced on April 24, 2018. Donald Scalise, of Montgomery, faces up to 20 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on April 25, 2018. Tiffany Ramsey, of Boomer, faces at least five years and up to 40 years in federal prison when she is sentenced on May 2, 2018. Shawn Akiem Anderson, of Mt. Hope, faces up to 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on May 29, 2018.   Rory White, of Montgomery, faces at least five years and up to 40 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on June 6, 2018. 

Karl Funderburk, of Teays Valley, who previously pled guilty to a gun charge, faces at least 5 years and up to life in federal prison for using and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime when he is sentenced on May 29, 2018.

Shaun Jones has entered a guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin.  Jonathan Moore has entered a guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. Each faces at least five years and up to 40 years in federal prison when they are sentenced on May 29, 2018. 

Corey Larkin previously entered a plea to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine and more than 100 grams of heroin.  He also faces at least five years and up to 40 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on June 5, 2018. 

Assistant United States Attorney Timothy D. Boggess is in charge of these prosecutions. The Staples and Burnette plea hearings were held before Senior United States District Judge David A. Faber.

These cases are being prosecuted as part of an ongoing effort led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia to combat the illicit sale and misuse of illegal drugs. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, joined by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, is committed to aggressively pursuing and shutting down pill trafficking, eliminating open air drug markets, and curtailing the spread of illegal drugs in communities across the Southern District.

 

 

Follow us on Twitter: @SDWVNews and @USAttyStuart 
 

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Opioids
Updated March 14, 2018