A federal grand jury returned the 23-count indictment Wednesday charging 22 people with various offenses in connection with the ring that authorities said distributed the drugs from Nashville into northern Alabama and St. Louis.
All but one of the 22 charged have been taken into custody by law enforcement in Tennessee, Alabama, and California as of Friday morning. The only one still on the run was Nashville-resident 24-year-old Darnell Finnels, aka Ski or Skeezy.
“We desperately need to get him into custody. Not only is he under indictment for the selling of heroin, he’s also a dangerous individual we need to get off the streets,” said Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson. "Anyone who sees Finnels or knows of his location was asked to contact your local law enforcement agency.
Chief Anderson joined U.S. District Attorney David Rivera for the announcement at the Federal Courthouse, along with Jack Webb, Assistant Special Agent- in-Charge of the ATF; Nashville Field Division; and Michael Stanfill, Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for Tennessee.
“Heroin had just about disappeared from Nashville and actually across the nation. But it’s back,” said Chief Anderson. “And since it’s back, we’re addressing it. We want to assure the Nashville public and Middle Tennessee, we’re on it and we’re on it together.”
The indictment states that Nashville resident Jamal Cooper obtained large quantities of heroin that was repackaged and sold in Middle Tennessee, northern Alabama and St. Louis, Missouri. It states that members of the conspiracy mixed fentanyl with heroin and also distributed fentanyl as heroin.
Authorities said the drugs lead to two deaths in Alabama and four other overdoses in Nashville and Alabama. The cutting was done to dilute the heroin in order to increase profits, according to the indictment. Investigators said some of those involved were undeterred after learning of the deaths and overdoses, and continued their distribution of heroin and fentanyl.
Fentanyl is cheaper than heroin, but also more powerful.
“Fentanyl is a synthetic opoid. It’s typically used for terminal cancer patients. Typically, fentanyl is obtained through a doctor’s prescription. We have lately seen fentanyl being imported through China,” said Mike Stanfill with the DEA. "Fentanyl itself is probably 100 times more potent than heroin, so it does not take nearly as much fentanyl to cause an overdose than it does heroin.”Investigators said several residences and properties in Nashville and northern Alabama were used by the suspects to store heroin and cash from sales and distribution of the drug.
The others indicted for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute heroin and/or fentanyl include:
- Jamal Cooper, aka Jamal Jordan, aka J, aka Mal, 37, of Antioch, Tennessee;
- Lonald Ector, aka J.R., 46, of San Bernardino, California;
- Robert Gonzales, 29, of Fontana, California;
- D’Ron Robinson, aka St. Louis, 25, of Jackson, Tennessee;
- Karon Key Jordan, 34, of Gallatin, Tennessee;
- Jasmond Foster, aka Jazz, 26, of Sheffield, Alabama;
- William Earl Foster, Jr., aka Buck, 25, of Florence, Alabama;
- Donquez Groves, aka Lewis Palmer, aka Little Donnie, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee;
- Wilton Bailey, aka Willy Will, 38, of Nashville, Tennessee;
- Clifford Woods, aka Wimpy, 55, of Gallatin, Tennessee;
- Tommy E. Smith, 37, of Nashville, Tennessee;
- Sheteeka Bryant, 34, of Nashville, Tennessee;
- Eric Williams, aka E, 38, of Nashville, Tennessee;
- Robert Foxx, aka D-Tay, aka Johnny, 28, of Nashville, Tennessee;
- Shawna Caroline Foster, 36, of Florence, Alabama;
- Jerry Ray Cochran, aka J Ray, 40, of Florence, Alabama;
- William Kimbrough III, aka Trey, 37, of Tuscumbia, Alabama;
- Wallace Earl Coffey, aka Nephew, aka Beck, 27, of Sheffield, Alabama;
- Wallace Beckwith, aka Duke, 47, of Florence, Alabama; and
- Thomas Barnett, aka Ham, aka Hambone, 27, of Florence, Alabama.
Four of the suspects also allegedly used guns against people who were believed to have stolen money and drugs from other members of the ring. One person was shot in Nashville on April 4, according to the indictment.
If convicted, all would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Those charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl resulting in the death of another person face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years to life in prison.
(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)