GREENEVILLE — Keith Paris Ruffin, 47, of Johnson City and Utica, N.Y., and Ronnie Cooper, 36, of Utica, N.Y., were sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Leon Jordan on Thursday to each serve 360 months in prison for their roles in a cocaine trafficking organization operating in the Tri-Cities area.
Following a four-week trial in U.S. District Court, Greeneville, a jury convicted Ruffin, Cooper and co-defendants Sunnah Maddox, Lee Carr, Adrian Dorsey, Jason Dejesus and Kelly Miller of numerous federal drug trafficking charges. Both Ruffin and Cooper were also convicted, along with Maddox, of money laundering and witness tampering conspiracies.
Maddox received a sentence of life in prison earlier this week. Carr, Dejesus, Dorsey and Miller were previously sentenced to prison terms of 235, 240, 120 and 78 months, respectively.
On July 6, U.S. District Court Judge Leon Jordan entered an order of forfeiture for a money judgment against Maddox, Carr and Cooper in the total amount of $7 million in U.S. currency, which represents the proceeds from the sale of cocaine, cocaine base (“crack”) and marijuana obtained and the money laundered during the course of the conspiracy by the various co-defendants.
According to evidence presented at trial, in February 2008, Johnson City Police Officers and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents arrested an individual who was known by local law enforcement agents to be part of a group of drug traffickers who had moved to Johnson City from Utica, N.Y., for the sole purpose of distributing cocaine and crack cocaine.
A recorded telephone call from this individual monitored by law enforcement was made to Maddox to order a half-kilogram of cocaine. This led to the DEA obtaining a court-authorized wire tap for Maddox’s phone.
Maddox operated his drug organization from his residences in both Johnson City and Utica. Using coded conversation known as “Supreme Mathematics” over the telephone, Maddox and other members of the conspiracy recruited couriers to transport kilogram quantities of cocaine as well as large amounts of U.S. currency from Johnson City to Atlanta, Florida, and New York.
The cocaine was then cooked into crack cocaine for distribution in the Johnson City area. During the investigation, agents conducted undercover drug purchases from members of the conspiracy and made traffic stops on organization members that resulted in the seizure of tens of thousands of dollars. The investigation culminated in the execution of search warrants on May 7, 2009, during which approximately a kilo and a half of cocaine and more than $21,000 were seized.
Maddox and many of his other co-defendants were soon thereafter arrested. From jail, Maddox, communicated with a co-defendant whom he suspected of cooperating with law enforcement agents and threatened to take action against this individual if he testified against him at trial.
Maddox communicated this information to conspiracy members Cooper and Ruffin, and in a recorded conversation, Maddox directed a “green light” on this individual. An FBI cryptanalyst forensic examiner, who analyzed the coded conversations used by Maddox and other members of the conspiracy, testified at trial that the “green light” issued by Maddox during the telephone call was an order to kill or cause serious bodily harm to this individual.
Evidence showed Maddox’s organization was responsible for the distribution of more than 40 kilograms of crack cocaine and dozens of kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride in the Tri-Cities area of upper East Tennessee.