Federal officials on Thursday announced they had dismantled a Knoxville-based cocaine ring that is accused of trafficking $17.5 million worth of drugs and distributing more than five kilograms of cocaine and 280 grams of crack cocaine.
A federal grand jury returned a 58-count indictment on Dec. 3 against 21 Knoxville residents, charging them with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, money laundering, and gun charges, U.S. Attorney William C. Killian said in a press release.
The 21 members of the alleged drug ring appeared in court before U.S. magistrate judges this week and entered pleas of not guilty to the charges in the indictment, Killian said. All of them have been ordered held without bond pending trial, which has been set for Feb. 11 in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.
Among the law enforcement agencies participating in the investigation were the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, Clinton Police Department, Oak Ridge Police Department, and Roane County Sheriff’s Department, Killian said.
Those charged in the indictment were Jesus Hernandez, a.k.a. “Chucho,” 31; Juan Julian Felipe, 26; Alfredo Casteneda, a.k.a. “Boludo,” 20; Faustino Ramirez Ponciano, a.k.a. “El Toño,” 18; Fernando Amayo Gonzalez, a.k.a. “Zeta,” 26; Gonzalo Garcia Gines, a.k.a. “Puebla,” 31; Felipe De Jesus Banales, a.k.a. “Guero,” 29; Elder Vasquez, 34; Johnny Soto-Quintana, a.k.a. “Ponzoña,” a.k.a. “Ponzi,” 23; Nahun Oliva, a.k.a. “El Perro,” 24, Gilberto Fuentes Dominguez, 27, Jesus Amustio Panoja, a.k.a. “Chuy,” 21; Anael Anariba, a.k.a. “Guero,” 35; Geyser Deleon, a.k.a. “Chiquilin,” a.k.a. “Chaparo,” 26; Jose Luis Aguilar, a.k.a. “Diego,” 34; Gelber Deleon, a.k.a. “Tarzan,” a.k.a. “Burro,” 21; Justin Moore, 28; Malcolm Jones, 21; David Lamb, 23; Monty Cooper, 42; and James Handly, a.k.a. “Flaco,” 54.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, which is based in Knoxville, said the first count of the indictment alleges that the members of the conspiracy are responsible for distributing in excess of five kilograms of cocaine and more than 280 grams of crack cocaine. If convicted, each faces a mandatory minimum prison term of at least 10 years and up to life and a fine of up to $10 million. The indictment alleges that the value of the drugs trafficked by all defendants was at least $17.5 million, the release said.
One of those indicted, Geyser Deleon, is charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and if convicted, faces a mandatory minimum prison term of at least five years and up to life, to be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed, and a fine of up to $250,000, the press release said.
This indictment is the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Department of Homeland Security—Immigration Customs Enforcement; Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; Alcoa Police Department; Clinton Police Department; Harriman Police Department; Knoxville Police Department; Maryville Police Department; Oak Ridge Police Department; Anderson County Sheriff’s Office; Blount County Sheriff’s Office; Knox County Sheriff’s Department; Loudon County Sheriff’s Department; Roane County Sheriff’s Department; Fifth Judicial District Drug Task Force; and Ninth Judicial District Drug Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy L. Stone and Brooklyn Sawyers will represent the United States, the release said.
“Members of the public are reminded that an indictment constitutes only charges and that every person is presumed innocent until their guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the release said.