GREENEVILLE — A Johnson City woman has been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for her role in a major drug trafficking operation that stretched from Florida to New York.
U.S. District Court Judge Leon Jordan on Thursday sentenced Lee Carr to 235 months in federal prison and ordered her and two codefendants in the case, Sunnah Maddox and Ronnie Cooper, both of Utica, N.Y., to forfeit $7 million in laundered proceeds from the sale of powder cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana.
Carr, Maddox, Cooper and four other codefendants in the case, Adrian Dorsey, Kelly Miller, Jason Dejesus and Keith Ruffin, all of Utica, were convicted of numerous federal drug trafficking charges in December by a federal court jury after hearing nearly four weeks of testimony surrounding the drug operation.
Jordan sentenced Miller to 78 months in prison Thursday. He previously sentenced Dorsey to 120 months in prison and has scheduled Maddox, Cooper, Ruffin and Dejesus for sentencing next week.
Maddox, who operated the drug trafficking operation from his homes in Johnson City and in Utica, faces a mandatory life sentence without parole. Ruffin, Cooper, and Dejesus face sentences of up to life in prison.
According to Sharry Dedman-Beard, a public information officer for the U.S. Attorneys Office, the investigation began in February 2008 when Johnson City police officers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested an unnamed person who was known to be part of a group who had moved to Johnson City from Utica for the sole purpose of distributing powder and crack cocaine. The officers recorded a telephone conversation between the unnamed individual and Maddox involving a half-kilogram of cocaine and then used the recording to obtain a court-authorized wire tap on his phone.
The wire tap revealed Maddox and others were using a type of coded conversation known as “Supreme Mathematics” to recruit couriers to transport kilograms of powder cocaine and large amounts of money from Johnson City to Atlanta, Florida and New York. The powder cocaine was then cooked into crack cocaine and distributed in the Johnson City area.
The investigation also included undercover drug purchases from members of the drug trafficking organization and traffic stops that resulted in the seizure of tens of thousands of dollars. On May 7, 2009, police executed search warrants in which approximately one and one-half kilograms of cocaine and more $21,000 were seized and Maddox and other members of the organization were arrested soon afterward. Dedman-Beard said the evidence showed the organization had distributed more than 40 kilograms of crack cocaine and dozens of kilograms of powder cocaine in the Tri-Cities area.
Following his arrest, Maddox communicated with a co-defendant in the case he suspected had cooperated law enforcement and threatened to take action if he testified against him at trial. Maddox later communicated with Cooper and Ruffin and, in a recorded telephone conversation, announced a “green light,” or a coded instruction for other members of the group to kill the suspected informant.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said the sentences imposed in the case “send a message to all, locally and from other parts of the country,” that “dangerous and ruthless criminals in the drug business will receive the serious punishment that they deserve in the Eastern District of Tennessee.”
In addition to the local DEA office and Johnson City Police Department, the investigationg agencies included the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, the First Judicial District Drug Task Force, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the New York State Police, the Utica Police Department and New York DEA and FBI agencies.