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Trial in FBI drug busts was first; many pleaded guilty

Last Monday, 33-year-old Booker Sewell received a 30-year federal prison sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

He received an additional 20 years for maintaining a drug-involved premises, but that sentence was to be served at the same time as the 30 years. He also had to forfeit more than $21,000 in cash.

The sentence was among the stiffest handed down in the FBI Safe Streets Task Force cases that became public in spring 2011.

Unlike many of his co-defendants and associates, Sewell chose to take the case to trial and was convicted of the charges against him. He was one of the arrests from 40 indictments that outlined three distinct drug trafficking conspiracies.

At the time the busts were announced, they were the largest for any FBI Safe Streets Task Force in Indiana. Enacted locally about five years ago, the Safe Streets Task Force is made up of federal agents and state and local law enforcement officers.

Along with Sewell’s recent sentencing, many additional people involved in that conspiracy are either in prison or awaiting sentencing.

Here’s an update on the case:

Conspiracy 1

Months of controlled drug buys led federal investigators and task force members to Jarvis T. Buchanan. He was indicted on charges of conspiracy with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine; maintaining drug-involved premises; and distribution of crack cocaine.

He pleaded guilty to the conspiracy count, admitting he worked with others to move more than 3,000 kilograms of cocaine.

He has not yet been sentenced.

Damon Porter, 34, pleaded guilty to knowingly making a drug-involved premises available and was sentenced to probation. Willie James Brooks, 50, pleaded guilty to using a telephone to facilitate a drug felony and is serving four years in prison. And Brenna Underwood, 27, pleaded guilty to making a drug-involved premises available and was given a year on probation.

Jermorris T. Sewell, 30, is serving just over nine years in prison on a conspiracy charge; Antonio T. Sewell, 32, also pleaded guilty and is serving just over six years in prison for conspiracy with intent to distribute crack cocaine. Jose Soto, 31, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and is awaiting sentencing.

Conspiracy 2

Headed by 30-year-old Fort Wayne resident Silvestre Castaneda, the members of this drug-trafficking ring helped move cocaine from California into Fort Wayne, according to court documents.

Charged in this branch of the investigation, along with Silvestre Castaneda, were Pedro Castaneda Jr., 40; Osiris Espinoza, 32; Maritza Castaneda, 32; Alejandro Montoya, 46; Florencia DeLuna, 31; and James Thomas, 66.

All were from Fort Wayne except for Maritza Castaneda and Montoya, who were from Colton, Calif., and Thomas, who was from Dayton.

All were indicted on charges of conspiracy with intent to distribute. Some faced additional charges, such as Silvestre Castaneda, indicted on a charge of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, and DeLuna, indicted on a charge of managing and controlling a building for the purpose of unlawfully storing a controlled substance.

Early in the case, Pedro Castaneda pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy with intent to distribute a controlled substance and is awaiting sentencing.

Maritza Castaneda, Montoya and DeLuna admitted guilt on the conspiracy charge.

Only Espinoza has been sentenced. He is serving 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to the conspiracy charge last February.

Silvestre Castaneda and Thomas were scheduled for trial last week, but the case was continued.

Conspiracy 3

When The Journal Gazette first updated the status of these cases nearly two years ago, none in the third conspiracy had admitted guilt or was serving time.

Almost nothing has changed.

Federal officials believe this ring was headed by Fort Wayne resident Charley J. Gonzalez III, 42, and Alejandro Luna, 30, identified in court documents as a gang member.

According to court documents, they worked directly with the Sewells and Buchanan to supply them with cocaine.

Also charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute drugs – along with Charley J. Gonzalez III and Alejandro Luna – were Billy J. Gonzalez, 36; Augustine Luna, 34; Joseph Luna, 38; Narcisso Soto III, 32.

Antonio Angel Ray Flores, 26, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and is scheduled to be sentenced in April, according to court records.

The rest

Along with the three distinct conspiracies, a number of other people were indicted in relation to the investigation.

Justin E. Dominguez, 31, pleaded guilty to use of a communication facility to facilitate cocaine distribution and was sentenced to eight months in prison. He has since been released.

Yohansen Fincher, 27, pleaded guilty to use of a communication facility to facilitate cocaine distribution and is awaiting sentencing.

Caleb B. Hurst, 27, pleaded guilty to use of a communication facility to facilitate cocaine distribution and was released nearly two years ago after serving 15 months in prison.

Miguel A. Zavala, 39, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances and was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

Joshua Stephans, 37, pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and is serving nearly four years in prison.

Trent D. Moore, 44, pleaded guilty to two counts of distribution of crack cocaine and is awaiting sentencing.

Ormey Douglas, 39, pleaded guilty to using a communication facility to distribute a controlled substance and is serving a 21-month prison sentence.

Cedrick L. Griffin, 32, pleaded guilty to use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug felony and was recently released after serving four years in prison.

Charley J. Gonzalez IV, 25, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance and was sentenced to probation.

Albert J. Smith, 41, pleaded guilty to use of a communication facility to distribute a controlled substance and is serving a four-year prison sentence.

Edgar White, 36, pleaded guilty to using a communication facility to distribute a controlled substance and was sentenced to probation.

Scott Hedges, 35, admitted to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to six months in prison, six months on home detention and a year of supervised release.

Benjamin B. Fisher, 36, pleaded guilty to using a communication facility to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and forfeited a motorcycle. He awaits sentencing.

Robert D. Littlejohn, 26, pleaded guilty to use of communication facility to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and was sentenced to 42 months in prison.

Christopher M. Salas, 39, admitted to being a felon in possession of a firearm, as well as possession with intent to distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine. He is awaiting sentencing.

rgreen@jg.net

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