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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Felon with Multiple Convictions Indicted on Drug and Gun Charges, Companion Charged with Renting Stash House

PITTSBURGH – Two residents of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of violating federal drug and firearms laws, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

The four-count indictment, returned on March 6, named Sonnie Ali Watts, 44, and Jessica Lea Wainwright, 38, both of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as the defendants.

According to the indictment, in September of 2016, Watts conspired with others to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and 100 grams or more of heroin. The indictment also alleges that on September 16, 2016, Watts possessed with intent to distribute Fentanyl and 100 grams or more of heroin. In addition, during the same time period, Watts possessed a 9 mm caliber semi-automatic firearm and ammunition, after having been convicted of multiple crimes punishable by more than one year in prison, including eight separate drug cases and one charge of escape. The indictment further alleges that Wainwright leased, rented, used and maintained a drug premises at 1917 Tours Street in Pittsburgh.

Defendants, like Watts, who have three prior convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses, face a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of life in prison, under the federal Armed Career Criminal Act. For Wainwright, the law provides for a term of imprisonment up to 20 years, a fine of $500,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and any prior criminal history of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Ross E. Lenhardt of the Violent Crimes Section is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case with valuable assistance from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority. In October 2017, as part of a series of actions to address this crime trend, Attorney General Sessions announced the reinvigoration of PSN and directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to develop a district crime reduction strategy that incorporates the lessons learned since PSN launched in 2001.

An indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Opioids
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Updated March 7, 2018