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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 27, 2016

Woman Caught Smuggling Cocaine At Charlotte Airport Pleads Guilty To Drug Charges

In Separate Case, Jamaican National Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Airport Drug Conspiracy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Shavona Danisha Pyatt, 28, of Conway, N.C., appeared in federal court today and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.  U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler presided over today’s plea hearing. 

Nick Annan, Special Agent in Charge of ICE/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Georgia and the Carolinas and Patti Fitzpatrick, Port Director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Area in Charlotte join U.S. Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement.

According to filed plea documents and today’s hearing, on November 13, 2015, Pyatt arrived at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (Charlotte Douglas Airport) on a direct flight from Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Upon entering the United States, Pyatt presented herself to CBP agents at primary inspection at the airport.  Pyatt acknowledged packing her own luggage. At secondary inspection, CBP agents discovered that Pyatt was attempting to smuggle cocaine pellets hidden both in her luggage and pants.  Court records indicate that CBP agents recovered additional cocaine pellets hidden in Pyatt’s body cavities. A total of 61 pellets containing between 400 grams to 500 grams of cocaine were recovered from Pyatt.  Pyatt was interviewed by HSI agents and stated that she intended to deliver the cocaine to Myrtle Beach, S.C. in exchange for $12,000.

Pyatt was detained following the plea hearing.  The charge levied against her carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $1,000,000 fine.  A sentencing date has not been scheduled yet.

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In a separate case, Winston Sherif Richards, 40, of Jamaica, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney to 30 months in prison, and one year of supervised release on federal drug conspiracy charges.  According to court records, in October 2015, Richards was arrested when he attempted to smuggle cocaine through customs security at Charlotte Douglas Airport.  Court records show that law enforcement found two bags of cocaine weighing approximately 822 grams, hidden within the lining of Richard’s backpack.  Richards told law enforcement that he was hired by a man to bring some “stuff” to the United States and to deliver it to an unknown man in New York.  Richards later admitted in court that he actively participated in the drug conspiracy.  Richards pleaded guilty in March 2016 to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. 

In handing down Richards’ sentence, Judge Whitney said that this prison sentence will help deter future drug trafficking at the Charlotte airport. In addition to the prison term imposed, the court ordered Richards be deported upon completion of his sentence.

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In a third prosecution involving drug smuggling at the airport, Tamara Williams-Kelly, 37, of Jamaica has also pleaded guilty to federal drug charges.  According to court records, in February 2016, Williams-Kelly flew into Charlotte Douglas Airport from Jamaica.  At the airport, CBP agents recovered a total of 1.57 kilograms of packaged powder cocaine hidden in the defendant’s carry-on luggage and on her person.  Court records show that Williams-Kelly told law enforcement she was promised $7,000 as payments for delivering the drugs to Norfolk, Virginia.  Williams-Kelly pleaded guilty on April 29, 2016, to one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, one count of unlawful importation of cocaine conspiracy and one count of unlawful importation of cocaine. She is currently in federal custody awaiting sentencing. 

All three cases are the result of HSI’s Airport Drug Interdiction initiative that targets international drug smuggling and financial crimes, including money laundering, bulk cash smuggling, and unlicensed money transmitters/transporters that utilize air travel to further their criminal enterprise.  Through this initiative, HSI incorporates the collaborative efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies, to include CBP, North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s Divisions of Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) and Department of Correction (DOC), Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Pineville Police Department and Cornelius Police Department.  In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Rose thanked these agencies for their joint investigation of these cases.

The prosecution for the government is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanjeev Bhasker of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated June 27, 2016