06/13/2024
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NEW BERN — Nine people from Bladen County were among 16 sentenced Friday for their involvement in an international cocaine trafficking organization operating in Bladen County, U.S. District Attorney Thomas Walker announced. The organization was importing the cocaine from Jamaica for distribution, according the the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The following from Bladen County pleaded guilty:

** Shawn Melvin, 41, of Elizabethtown, who was sentenced to 15 years and 10 months in prison, plus 5 years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine from Sept. 2008 to Feb. 11, 2014.

** Veronica Kemp, 43, of Elizabethtown, who was sentenced to 10 years plus 5 years supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine from Sept. 2008 to Feb. 11, 2014.

** Jonathan Shipman, 35, of Elizabethtown, who was sentenced to 9 years plus 3 years supervised release, for distribution of a quantity of cocaine on April 24, 2013.

** Clayton Leslie, 37, of Elizabethtown, also known as Tyrone Gordon, who was sentenced to 10 years plus 5 years supervised released, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Jan. 2004 to May 2014.

** Don Smith, 32, of Elizabethtown, who was sentenced to 1 year and 10 months plus 2 years supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Jan. 2004 to May 2014.

** Felicia Smith, 39, of Clarkton, who was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months plus 3 years supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Jan. 2004 to May 2014.

** Terri Smith, 31, of Clarkton, who was sentenced to 5 months plus 3 years supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Jan. 2004 to May 2014.

** Turkesa Lesane, 35, of Elizabethtown, who was sentenced to 4 months plus 3 years supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Jan. 2004 to May 2014.

** Grant McCoy, 31, of Clarkton, who was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months plus 5 years supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Jan. 2004 to May 2014.

Also sentenced Friday as part of the organization were:

** Alicia McCoy, 25, of Lumberton, who was sentenced to 2 years plus 2 years supervised released, for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine from Sept. 2008 to Feb. 11, 2014.

** Levi McGowan, 44, of Columbus, Ohio, whose case was transferred to the Southern District of Ohio, where he was sentenced to 2 years and 3 months plus 3 years supervised release.

** Lawrence Roberson, 49, of Fayetteville, who was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months plus 4 years supervised probation, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Jan. 2004 to May 2014.

** Kevisha Brown, 25, no hometown listed, who was sentenced to 2 years and 8 months plus 3 years supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Jan. 2004 to May 2014.

** Antonio Williams, 45, of Poughkeepsie, New York, who was sentenced to 11 years and 9 months plus 5 years supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Jan. 2004 to May 2014.

** Michael Ellison, 45, of Bronx, New York, who was sentenced to 4 years and 8 months plus 4 years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Jan. 2004 to May 2014.

** David McLaughlin, 43, of Orlando, Florida, who was sentenced to 8 years plus 1 year supervised release, for use of a communication facility in committing or in causing or facilitating a drug trafficking offense, and aiding and abetting.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in 2011, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security established the existence of a drug trafficking organization that smuggled cocaine into the United States from several Caribbean islands, including Jamaica, Curacao, and Trinidad. The organization, based in Bladen County, was formed in 2004 by Leslie, Melvin, and Kemp, who is Melvin’s wife.

The organization was primarily supplied cocaine by unindicted Jamaican nationals who recruited Alicia McCoy, Don Smith, Felicia Smith, Terri Smith, McGowan, Lesane, McLaughlin, Roberson, Grant McCoy, Brown, Williams and Ellison to travel to the Caribbean islands to ingest or conceal pelletized cocaine in their body cavities or undergarments. The couriers smuggled the cocaine into the United States via several airports, including those in Charlotte, Miami, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale and Memphis, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The couriers made a total of 52 international flights for the organization. When the couriers returned to the United States, they regurgitated or passed the cocaine pellets and gave them to Melvin, Kemp, and/or Leslie for distribution. On occasion, some of the couriers were utilized to wire money overseas to individuals for cocaine purchases prior to the couriers’ travels, according the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Melvin provided some of the cocaine to Shipman, a drug dealer and high-level member of the United Blood Nation street gang in Bladen County.

The investigation revealed the organization imported more than 11.5 kilograms of cocaine into the United States between 2004 and 2014, Walker’s office said.

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