A Covington woman is awaiting sentencing as part of a federal case involving prisoners brokering drug deals from their prison cells.
Sentencing for Allison Daniel, 43, of Covington, is set for Aug. 13.
Daniel is among 16 defendants convicted to date before U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May as part of the case involving Jesus Sanchez-Morales, the leader of an extensive drug conspiracy involving multiple state prisons in Georgia.
Sanchez-Morales has pleaded guilty, joining Daniel and 15 other conspirators, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's office.
While incarcerated in a Georgia prison, Sanchez-Morales admitted to brokering innumerable drug transactions throughout the Atlanta area from his cell using contraband cell phones. He was already serving a sentence for drug trafficking offenses at the time he committed the offense.
U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said, “An insidious network of drug trafficking prison inmates has been disrupted by the apprehension and conviction of Sanchez-Morales and his team."
“Inmates tempted to use a phone in state or federal prison now know that when they are caught using a cell phone from prison, they will face more time in prison. And when those cell phones are used for the proliferation of lethal drugs in our community, the consequences will be severe,” Pak said.
Robert J. Murphy, the special agent in charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division said, “DEA is fully committed to pursuing criminals who sell drugs, whether they’re selling them on the streets or inside a prison.
"This high-level drug trafficker was the “ring-leader” who orchestrated a number of drug transactions throughout metropolitan Atlanta while incarcerated. Consequently, his criminal acts landed him even more deserving time in prison. The spirited level of law enforcement cooperation and the subsequent prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office made this investigation a success.”
According to Pak, the charges and other information presented in court, the case resulted from an extensive DEA investigation involving federal court-authorized wiretaps of multiple contraband prison cell phones, the news release stated.
"During the course of the investigation, agents learned that a network of prison inmates was using contraband cell phones to broker drug transactions throughout the Atlanta area, including arranging to receive drug shipments from out of state and from Mexico.
"These prison brokers relied on an organized cadre of lieutenants and footmen outside of prison to store, package and distribute multiple varieties of illegal drugs using drug stash houses. Other members of the organization were responsible for laundering the drug proceeds, including sending multiple low-dollar money wires to Mexico using various money remitters.
"The drug trafficking and money laundering organization repeatedly threatened violence to uncooperative members. At least 18 firearms were seized, including firearms containing notches, believed to represent instances where the firearm had been used to take a life. At one point, agents learned of a plot to abduct and murder a member of the conspiracy and successfully averted the plan," the release stated.
Throughout the conspiracy, Sanchez-Morales was frequently referred to as “Patron,” or boss, according to the release.
A total of 39 participants in total were indicted as part of this conspiracy and charged with a combination of drug, gun and money laundering offenses.
During the course of the investigation, agents seized more than 175 kilograms of methamphetamine, 25 gallons of liquid methamphetamine, 12,000 fentanyl pills, as well as kilogram-quantities of fentanyl powder, heroin and marijuana. Agents also dismantled two methamphetamine conversion laboratories and seized $343,000 in cash.
Sixteen additional defendants have been arraigned and are awaiting trial, including Antwonette Jarnez Thomas, 21, of Conyers.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictments only contain charges. The defendants who have not been convicted are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating these cases. The U.S. Marshals Service, Georgia State Patrol, Atlanta Police Department, Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, South Fulton Police Department, Georgia Department of Corrections, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and Federal Bureau of Investigation are providing valuable assistance during these investigations.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison B. Prout, Erin H. Harris, and Scott McAfee are prosecuting the cases.