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Press Release

Leader of Multimillion-Dollar Cocaine Trafficking Ring, Co-Conspirators Collectively Sentenced to More Than 120 Years

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

Memphis, TN – The ringleader of a multimillion-dollar cocaine trafficking ring has been sentenced to federal prison. Twenty co-conspirators were previously sentenced for their roles in the criminal enterprise; one remains a fugitive. Edward L. Stanton III, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced the sentences today.

The defendants and their respective sentences:

• Derrick Hester, 43, of Memphis, TN: 114 months

• Marcus Brown, 38, of Somerville, TN: Time served

• David Arnold, 34, of Horn Lake, MI: 135 months

• Torey Jackson, 48, of Memphis, TN: 2 years supervised release

• Julius Anthony Weaver, 32, of Memphis, TN: 70 months

• Brian Wallace Stewart, 36, of Memphis, TN: 41 months

• Ahmad Omar Majid, 42, of Atoka, TN: 30 months

• Joseph Bernard Taylor, 40, of Memphis, TN: 51 months

• Marco Dewayne Reed, 37, of Memphis, TN: 37 months

• Toramine Lavorid McKinnie, 35, of Brownsville, TN: 63 months

• William Norman Bass III, 29, of Bartlett, TN: 151 months

• Jacques Terell Bledsoe, 30, of Memphis, TN: 24 months

• John Ivory Bridges, 33, of Jonesboro, AK: Time served

• Javier Lopez Cantu, 49, of McAllen, TX: 87 months

• Amos Turner Jr., 61, of Memphis, TN: 33 months

• Justin Anthony Clark, 36, of Whiteville, TN: 30 months

• Lance Jerome Gaston, 38, of Cordova, TN: 151 months

• Jeremiah Gamble, 32, of Memphis, TN: 151 months

• Alejandro Sanchez, 29, of Brownsville, TX: 78 months

• Jesus Arnoldo Solis, 44, of Brownsville, TX: 144 months

• Humphrey Brooks, 39, of Memphis, TN: 84 months

• Antonio Caldwell, 31, of Memphis, TN: Fugitive

According to information presented in court, Hester spearheaded a drug trafficking organization responsible for importing and distributing more than 100 kilograms of cocaine throughout West Tennessee and abroad.

Between 2012 and 2014, law enforcement conducted "Operation Cocaine Lover," an investigation into the drug trafficking organization. Officers conducted extensive physical surveillance, controlled drug purchases, and wiretaps on members within the organization.

During the investigation, law enforcement discovered that massive amounts of cocaine were being transported from Texas to Memphis on a regular basis by Hester and Arnold. The cocaine would then be provided to co-conspirators in varying quantities, including kilograms, half-kilos and ounces. The drugs were subsequently distributed throughout the district.

One of the defendants, Taylor, attempted to bribe a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force officer during a traffic stop to avoid arrest. The stop resulted in the recovery of multiple ounces of cocaine and $31,590 in drug proceeds. Taylor attempted to persuade the officer to take the drugs and money and let him and a co-conspirator go free.

In addition to distributing cocaine, defendants Hester and Arnold were also engaged in money laundering. Hester made large monetary deposits into accounts at SunTrust Bank and Bank of America through two companies he established to conceal his illicit activity.

Arnold obtained a $230,000 mortgage to purchase a house. He used drug proceeds to make payments on the house between late 2010 and 2013. The house was used to store drugs and conduct drug sales.

More than $370,000 in drug proceeds was seized during the investigation, along with multiple residential properties and vehicles.

Each defendant, excluding Caldwell, pleaded guilty to charges within the indictment.

Between September 2015 and September 2016, all of the defendants were sentenced. The sentences collectively amount to more than 120 years in federal prison.

This case was investigated by the DEA; IRS-Criminal Investigation; United States Marshals Service; the Memphis, Bartlett, Germantown and Collierville Police Departments; and the Shelby County and Tipton County Sheriff’s Offices.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Kitchen prosecuted this case on the government’s behalf.

Updated September 22, 2016