3 more handed terms in Tyler ‘drug cartel’|[03/19/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 19, 2008

NATCHEZ — Three more people who pleaded guilty to operating a drug enterprise in Warren County learned their sentences in federal court Tuesday.

Kenny Tyler, 35, Keafur Wallace, 25, and Cadie Mae Bunch, 28, all convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, received sentences from U.S. District Judge David Bramlette at the Federal Courthouse in Natchez. Tyler was sentenced to 10 years and five months, Wallace was sentenced to seven years and three months and Bunch was sentenced to five years and three months.

“This ought to be a lesson to others in Vicksburg,” Bramlette said to the defendants. “It’s sad that so many lives have been ruined over the years by this cartel.”

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In addition, the defendants were fined $1,500 and were ordered to be placed on probation for five years following their prison terms.

Bramlette attributed the shorter terms of Wallace and Bunch to their cooperation with the prosecution and testimony against their co-defendants. Wallace’s sentence remained longer due to a 2003 conviction of cocaine possession, for which he was given “a suspended sentence from a charitable judge in Vicksburg,” Bramlette said.

“We need our judges to be giving harsher initial punishments to the Keafur Wallaces of the world,” Bramlette said.

A total of nine people were arrested as part of the same multi-agency drug sweep in June 2007.

Others were Michael Tyler, 35, Christopher Shaun Walker, 29, Tommie Shepherd, 46, Larry Jones, 31, John Dillard, 61, and Charles Price, 53. Almost all had previous felony drug convictions.

The arrests, based on warrants, were made by Vicksburg police, Warren County deputies, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents, Drug Enforcement Administration High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area agents, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, U.S. Marshals and the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol.

In serving the arrest warrants, agents seized three kilograms of cocaine, weapons, more than $100,000 in cash, and also traced the drug source to a Dallas supplier.

Authorities estimated the group was selling more than 8 kilos, or 17.6 pounds, of crack cocaine in Vicksburg each month.

In February, Michael Tyler, who was described as the group’s leader, received a 24-year sentence from Bramlette. Tyler, too, had pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

Others who have been sentenced are Walker, Shepherd and Jones. All three pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute and were sentenced by Bramlette to serve five years in prison, the minimum. They faced potential sentences of 20 years.

Dillard, the only co-defendant to request a trial, was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and two counts of sale of cocaine. He will be sentenced June 3. Dillard faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life.

Price, who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, is to be sentenced April 17.