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Press Release

Final Of Four Defendants Sentenced For Grand Rapids-Based Drug Trafficking Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

Defendant Linked to Fatal Fentanyl Poisoning, Operation Distributing Drugs to Prisoners Using Fake Mail from Defense Attorneys

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that the last of four defendants, Anthony Martell Sanders, 30, of Grand Rapids, was sentenced to 300 months in prison for his role in a drug trafficking conspiracy that distributed fentanyl and methamphetamine throughout the Grand Rapids area, including fentanyl laced with xylazine.

          “Illicit street drugs are extremely dangerous and claim more lives across Michigan and the United States than ever before,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “Everyone who uses illegal substances takes their life in their own hands. Only a speck of fentanyl can kill. And so often it laces other drugs. A user who thinks they’re taking one drug doesn’t realize they’re also taking a lethal dose of fentanyl and is dead in minutes. Moreover, the addition of xylazine means naloxone cannot reverse the effect of fentanyl. My office is committed to disrupting the pipelines that distribute these poisons in our communities, causing so much devastation.”

          The following individuals have been convicted and sentenced as part of this investigation:





Anthony Martell Sanders


Grand Rapids

300 months

Amon Sudan Sanders-Outlaw


Grand Rapids

168 months

Marquan Demond Staffney


Grand Rapids

75 months

Javon Bridgeforth House


Grand Rapids

54 months

          On January 14, 2023, officers with the Holland Department of Public Safety responded to an overdose death. Investigators discovered text messages that linked Sanders as a drug supplier of the decedent. Investigators with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) then completed six undercover buys of fentanyl and methamphetamine from Sanders and others.  The investigation culminated with the execution of three search warrants in Grand Rapids on April 4, 2023.  At one apartment occupied by members of Sanders’ family, agents seized over five pounds of methamphetamine and fentanyl.  The fentanyl that Sanders and others had previously distributed to the undercover officer had been laced with xylazine or “tranq,” a veterinary tranquilizer not approved for human use, the effects of which are irreversible by naloxone.

          In addition, at an Airbnb apartment where law enforcement arrested Sanders on April 4, agents found significant evidence of the defendant mailing drugs into the prisons through a scheme to falsify envelopes to make them appear as if they were sent from criminal defense firms as “legal mail” in the hope of evading law enforcement detection. Specifically, investigators found fake return labels and return stamps for three Grand Rapids law firms and a roster of prisoners throughout the nation. Investigators had previously linked Sanders, and related defendant Marquan Staffney, to a package seized on July 22, 2022, at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Branch County, purporting to be legal mail and containing a hallucinogenic controlled substance known as “K2.”

          “These sentences will ensure these individuals can no longer endanger lives in west Michigan,” said Orville O. Greene, Special Agent in Charge of Detroit Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to rid communities of drug traffickers who threaten the safety and well-being of the general public.”

          “I am pleased to see this successful prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan,” said Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington.  “These drugs present a serious danger to our prisons, placing staff and prisoners at risk.  I’d like to thank the MDOC staff involved in this investigation, as well as our partners in law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their work to end this drug trafficking effort and protect our staff.”

          Throughout the entire scope of the conspiracy, Sanders was on federal supervised release from a prior federal conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

             During the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker found as an “aggravating factor” that after Sanders pled guilty, he shared discovery material with a third-party who then posted it on Facebook in an attempt to intimidate a cooperating witness. Specifically, investigators discovered a February 10, 2024, recorded video call with Sanders from the Newaygo County Jail where Sanders divulged cooperation materials and encouraged the third-party to disseminate the materials on social media.  Judge Jonker also found that Sanders was a leader of the drug trafficking conspiracy as he directed others to deliver drugs on his behalf.  Sanders even directed his brother, Amon Sanders-Outlaw, on a promotional offer to provide drug users with free drugs in exchange for introductions to other drug customers.    

          This case was investigated by DEA, Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Corrections, West Michigan Enforcement Team, Kent Area Narcotic Enforcement Team, Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Holland Department of Public Safety, Grand Rapids Police Department, Wyoming Department of Public Safety, Walker Police Department, and Grandville Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vito S. Solitro and Stephanie M. Carowan prosecuted the case.



MEDIA NOTE: For more information on Xylazine, see the October 2022 DEA Joint Intelligence Report: The Growing Threat of Xylazine and its Mixture with Illicit Drugs. For more information on Fentanyl, see the Drug Enforcement Administration’s factsheet on the substance.

Updated June 24, 2024

Drug Trafficking