Final Defendant Sentenced In Operation Holiday Express
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr. announced today that Samuel Aaron Collins of Gardena, California was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Paul L. Malone to 11 years in prison for his participation in a cocaine conspiracy that trafficked thousands of kilograms of cocaine from California to Michigan for over a decade. Collins and eleven other co-conspirators were indicted by a Grand Jury in the Western District of Michigan on December 1, 2009. When law enforcement executed arrest warrants in California on December 2, 2009, Collins fled. Collins remained a fugitive from justice until a fugitive task force under the U.S. Marshals Service apprehended him in Aurora, Colorado in November 2012. On February 8, 2013, Collins pled guilty to three counts of using a telephone to facilitate the cocaine conspiracy. Each count carried a statutory maximum of four years imprisonment.
Collins, along with his childhood friend, drug kingpin Charles Jackson, Sr., began trafficking cocaine from California to Michigan in the mid-1990s. The two men were indicted in the Eastern District of Michigan in 1998. Collins pled guilty to interstate travel in aid of racketeering (“ITAR”) and served a five year prison sentence. Jackson, Sr. successfully eluded law enforcement for over a decade and remained a fugitive on the Eastern District of Michigan indictment. After Collins completed his ITAR sentence in 2004, he resumed cocaine trafficking with Jackson, Sr. Collins’ primary role was to manage the multiple couriers that transported the cocaine from California to Michigan, test the quality of the cocaine, prepare the cocaine for cross-country shipment, and drop off and pick up drug proceeds and transport vehicles on Jackson, Sr.’s behalf. Jackson, Sr. ultimately surrendered to law enforcement in 2010, after being indicted in the Western District of Michigan. Thereafter, he pled guilty to cocaine conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy charges and is presently serving a 27 year prison term.
Collins’ sentence marks the culmination of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) investigation “Operation Holiday Express.” The investigation was led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) and the Lansing Police Department. The investigation began with the bust of a street-level crack cocaine dealer in Lansing, Michigan in 2004. From there, investigators followed the drug and money trail to a Lansing street gang known as AHH DEE AHH, which was responsible for trafficking large quantities of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana between Detroit and Lansing from 2001 to 2006. Federal prosecution of AHH DEE AHH began in 2005, and resulted in the conviction of 27 members and associates. Investigators next identified AHH DEE AHH’s Detroit-based cocaine suppliers, who were prosecuted in 2007. The investigation turned westward in 2008 and resulted in the identification and prosecution of members and associates of two California-based drug trafficking organizations that supplied the cocaine being peddled in Detroit and Lansing. Charles Jackson, Sr. led one of these drug trafficking organizations with the assistance of Samuel Aaron Collins. The investigation revealed that over $176,000,000 of drug proceeds were generated by these two organizations. Including Collins, over forty defendants have been charged, convicted, and sentenced as a result of this investigation.
U.S. Attorney Miles praised the tenacity and dedication of the ATF and the Lansing Police Department. “The ATF, the Lansing Police Department, and the United States Attorney’s Office have worked hand-in-glove on this investigation for nearly a decade. Based on investigators’ dogged efforts, what began as the bust of a street-level crack cocaine dealer resulted in the prosecution and dismantlement of two drug trafficking organizations responsible for transporting thousands of kilograms of cocaine from California to Michigan for further redistribution throughout the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan.” U.S. Attorney Miles also recognized the efforts of the U.S. Marshals Service in apprehending Collins, who remained a fugitive for nearly three years. “Those that decide to flee from justice should know that their day is coming. Ultimately, such individuals will be caught by the agency that investigated the case or by the U.S. Marshals Service.”
ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Daryl McCrary commented: “This investigation is an example of ATF’s commitment and determination in making our communities safe. ATF’s Frontline strategy is our business model that addresses violent gun and narcotics trafficking crime. These accomplishments could not have been achieved without the collaboration and hard work of ATF, Lansing Police Department, and the United States Attorney’s Office.”
Lansing Police Chief Michael Yankowski stated: “The City of Lansing is highly appreciate of the partnerships it has established with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the ATF. Only through this strong collaboration was it possible to dismantle such a large drug operation that crossed several states and required a multi-agency investigation. The City of Lansing and the country have benefitted greatly as a result of the elimination of these two drug trafficking organizations that terrorized our citizens with agony, gloom, and violent crime through the sale of narcotics. The City of Lansing, with the highest level of gratitude, thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their tenacious, meticulous, and successful prosecution of these cases.”
Operation Holiday Express was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Fauson and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Lennon.