Skip to main content
Press Release

Leader of large gang-related drug trafficking group sentenced to 15 years in prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Head of group distributing large amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs in Puget Sound region

Seattle – The leader of a large drug trafficking organization, moving drugs from southern California to Washington and Illinois, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 15 years in prison and 5 years of supervised release, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. CHARLES ROLAND CHEATHAM, 43, of Fife, Washington, was arrested June 6, 2018, along with some 38 other members of his drug distribution ring.  On August 30, 2019, CHEATHAM pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  

“This defendant and his gang were responsible for huge amounts of illegal drugs damaging our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Moran.  “Building a case against a large number of defendants is difficult work for investigators and for the attorneys who work alongside them.  I commend the tremendous effort by the investigators and Assistant United States Attorneys who worked tirelessly to take this group of armed criminals off our streets.”

According to records filed in the case, conspirators trafficked cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, illegal marijuana, and fentanyl.  Some of the co-conspirators, had been linked to violence – including shootings – in Seattle and south King County.  On the wiretap, law enforcement heard conspirators talk about various shootings after they occurred, including the September 4, 2017, shooting outside a Renton hookah lounge.  Among other things, conspirators discussed getting firearms after being shot at by rival gangs. 

Leading up to the takedown, law enforcement seized 12 pounds of heroin, more than 2 kilograms of cocaine, a pound of methamphetamine, 124 pounds of marijuana, 41 firearms, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

At CHEATHAM’s Fife residence, law enforcement seized cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, as well as four firearms, more than $300,000 in cash, and jewelry, including a gem-encrusted necklace bearing CHEATHAM’s moniker “da Mayor.”  Because of his criminal history, CHEATHAM had been prohibited from possessing firearms.  However, at the same time he was dealing significant quantities of drugs, he successfully petitioned a court to have his gun rights restored.

In all, 43 defendants have pleaded guilty in connection with the drug trafficking conspiracy.  The most significant sentences in the case to date range from 5 years in prison to 11.5 years in prison.  Also today a mid-level drug distributor, MICHAEL D. SAFFORD was sentenced to 5 years in prison for his role in the scheme.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.   DOJ reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.  This investigation was led by the Seattle Police Department Gang and Narcotics Units, FBI Seattle Safe Streets Task Force, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  Other agencies providing investigative assistance include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS), and the U.S Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vince Lombardi, Erin H. Becker and Nicholas Manheim.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated December 16, 2019

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses