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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Columbia Man Sentenced to 23 Years for Meth Conspiracy

Three California Gang Members Also Sentenced

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Columbia, Mo., man and three Compton, Calif., men were sentenced in federal court today for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine that was shipped to Columbia through the mail.

Zachary Troy Fennell, 39, of Columbia, and Fernando Chavez, 33, Favbion Dawayne Holmes, 40, and Dijon Rasheed Brown, 25, all of Compton, were sentenced in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough. Fennell was sentenced to 23 years and four months in federal prison without parole. Chavez and Brown were each sentenced to 15 years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Holmes was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison without parole.

Fennell, Chavez and Holmes each pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Fennell also pleaded guilty to possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute and to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Brown was convicted at trial of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute and of being a felon in possession of a firearm. They are among 10 defendants who have been convicted and sentenced in this case.

According to court documents, Fennell – the leader of the conspiracy – began receiving methamphetamine through the mail and distributing it in Columbia as early as December 2014. In October and November 2015, investigators seized four parcels intended for delivery to Fennell that were found to contain a total of 3.55 kilograms of pure methamphetamine. Fennell, a former gang associate of his co-defendants from Compton, has been involved in criminal activity throughout his lifetime and has lived a violent, gang-related lifestyle. 

According to court documents, Chavez mailed packages containing large quantities of almost pure methamphetamine to Fennell to distribute. Chavez was a gang member and heavily involved in criminal activities associated with gang affiliation. Holmes’ role in the conspiracy was to provide armed protection for Fennell. Holmes usually kept armed watch by the front door of Fennell’s residence, and accompanied Fennell on drug deals. Holmes has had lifelong affiliation with a street gang. Brown provided armed protection to Fennell and distributed methamphetamine. Brown has been an active gang member, and participated in the violent criminal lifestyle associated with gang affiliation. Brown has been involved in extensive criminal activity, including crimes of violence and weapons offenses.

In October 2015, according to court documents, Fennell was the victim of a home invasion robbery by rival drug dealers. His money, drugs and guns were stolen. He called his associates from California — Brown, Holmes and co-defendant Kameron Terrell Howard, 27, of Compton, to come to Columbia to help protect his drug enterprise. These men were present when investigators made a controlled delivery of a parcel containing methamphetamine to Fennell’s residence on Nov. 10, 2015.

Postal inspectors identified a suspicious parcel on Nov. 6, 2015, that was mailed from California to the residence of Fennell and co-defendant Melissa Guerra, 36, of Columbia, which was suspected to contain a controlled substance. Federal agents recovered 444.8 grams of pure methamphetamine, valued at more than $11,000, from the parcel inside a hollowed-out book.

Federal agents executed a controlled delivery of the parcel on Nov. 10, 2015. Officers conducting surveillance of the residence saw two men leave the house at approximately 9:55 a.m. in a white Chevrolet Suburban. The parcel was delivered at 10:04 a.m. and placed next to the front door. A man inside the residence was observed opening and closing the front door of the residence several times, viewing the package through the screen of the storm door.

The white Chevrolet Suburban, which had previously left the residence, was observed driving past the residence at approximately 10:31 a.m., conducting what appeared to be counter-surveillance. After passing the residence one time, the vehicle returned and parked in the driveway of the residence at approximately 10:33 a.m. Brown and the driver got out of the vehicle; Brown took the parcel off the front porch and brought it inside the residence. At approximately 10:36 a.m., Fennell was observed bringing the parcel back outside the residence and placing it next to the front door. Several occupants of the residence were observed sitting near the front porch.

Shortly thereafter federal agents, assisted by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, approached the residence to execute the search warrant. Brown ran to the front door of the residence, opened it, and shut the door behind him. SWAT members were unable to breach the door as it had been reinforced. SWAT members entered at another location and agents saw Brown along with Holmes and Howard running out the back door of the residence attempting to evade law enforcement. They hopped the backyard fence and continued running into an area of overgrown vegetation. Holmes was apprehended a short distance on the other side of the fence. Howard and Brown were apprehended hiding in a pool shed approximately one-quarter to a half-mile away, after a brief manhunt which resulted in the lockdown of a nearby elementary school. Fennell was apprehended in the front yard of the residence. 

Law enforcement officers also located three loaded firearms inside the residence, a small amount of methamphetamine in the freezer and in an upstairs bedroom dresser, and various documents that appeared to be ledgers for narcotics transactions.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jim Lynn and Ashley S. Turner. It was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Columbia, Mo., Police Department and the Boone County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department.

Drug Trafficking
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Updated March 22, 2018