2nd ‘Tyler’ member gets 24 years|[06/04/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More than 24 years of federal prison time was handed to another member of the “Tyler Organization,” the local drug enterprise that authorities once called the No. 1 distributor of crack cocaine in Vicksburg.

Charles Price, 54, one of nine people arrested in a drug sweep a year ago, was sentenced Tuesday afternoon to 292 months by U.S. District Judge David Bramlette in Natchez. Price had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine last year.

His punishment matches that of Michael Tyler, 35, who was described by Bramlette and authorities as the leader of the cartel. Tyler, too, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

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“He (Price) played a significant role as Tyler did in this organization,” said Sheriff Martin Pace. The Warren County Sheriff’s Department was one of seven agencies involved in the investigation and arrests.

Pace also noted that Price was “a lifelong drug dealer in the Vicksburg area.” According to records, Price has three felony convictions, all drug-related, dating to 1988.

“Price was not unfamiliar to law enforcement,” Pace said. “He was a threat to this community and the court recognized that yesterday.”

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

Others who were arrested in the same sweep a year ago were Kenny Tyler, the 36-year-old brother of Michael; Keafur Wallace, 25; Cadie Mae Bunch, 29; Christopher Shaun Walker, 29; Tommie Shepherd, 46; Larry Jones, 32; and John Dillard, 61. All but two 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, FBI 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.

Dillard is now the only co-defendant who has not been sentenced. He was also the only one to request a trial, which ended in a jury finding him guilty of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and two counts of sale of cocaine. He was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday along with Price, but that was delayed. Dillard faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life.

On March 18, Kenny Tyler, Wallace and Bunch, all convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, were sentenced. 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.

During the hearing, 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.

Walker, Shepherd and Jones 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.