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Chicago man sentenced to prison for his role in large-scale heroin ring in Cedar Rapids


This news story was published on June 2, 2020.
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CEDAR RAPIDS – An Illinois man, responsible for distributing over 1,000 grams of heroin, was sentenced Monday to 127 months in federal prison.

Jarel Shawn Williams, age 23, from Chicago, Illinois, received the prison sentence after a December 10, 2019 guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to distribute at least 1,000 grams of heroin and five counts of distribution of heroin.  Williams is the 22nd person to be sentenced to prison over the last 20 months for his role in a large-scale heroin ring.

The investigation into the heroin ring began in 2017 when investigators with the Cedar Rapids Police Department, Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, and the Drug Enforcement Administration became aware of a large scale heroin trafficking network operating in the Cedar Rapids area.  The heroin was brought in from outside of Iowa and sold to mid-level dealers and customers who in the Cedar Rapids area.  Investigators conducted dozens of interviews of local dealers, learning the structure of the organization.  However, traditional investigative techniques alone were not enough to fully understand and target the heroin trafficking that was pervasive in Cedar Rapids.

In order to penetrate the organization, investigators eventually used eleven Title III wiretap investigations targeting four prolific heroin distributors in the area.  Investigators intercepted hundreds of calls between dealers and customers.  The wiretap investigation revealed that these phones were used solely for arranging heroin transactions and that dealers were making dozens of heroin deals daily.  One such phone was dubbed the “Ferrari” phone.  The “Ferrari” phone was passed

between various members of the group, including Jarel Shawn Williams.  Members would answer the phone and arrange deals, sometimes making the delivery of heroin themselves.  Other times, other members of the group were sent to make the delivery.  On average, heroin users were buying a quarter gram of heroin at a time for around $40.  Transactions occurred all over Cedar Rapids, including at mall and grocery store parking lots, and near gas stations, truck stops, and parks.  By contacting the “Ferrari” phone, investigators were able to conduct over a dozen undercover purchases of heroin from members of the group.

Members of the “Ferrari” group also travelled to Chicago to acquire large quantities of heroin.  The heroin was then brought back to Cedar Rapids and distributed.  In July 2017, law enforcement stopped a vehicle travelling from Chicago to Cedar Rapids.  Two members of the group were in the vehicle.  In the vehicle, officers located over 350 grams of heroin on its way to Cedar Rapids to be distributed.

Some members of the group carried firearms to protect themselves.  In total, investigators seized over $6,500 United States Currency, one pound of heroin, and six handguns.  At least two people overdosed, but survived, after consuming heroin distributed by a member or members of the group.

Ultimately, the investigation resulted in charges against 33 individuals.  This included a handful of indictments against persons who were intercepted purchasing heroin from the group and who utilized cellular phones to arrange heroin transactions.

In addition to Jarel Shawn Williams, the following individuals have been be sentenced for their role in distributing heroin:

  1. Dion Clayborn, age 41, from Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 144 months’ imprisonment on January 25, 2019, following a guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance near a protected location.  Clayborn must also serve a 6-year term of supervised release after the prison term.
  1. Andrew Fletcher, age 35, from Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 61 days’ imprisonment on March 18, 2019, following a guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute heroin.  Fletcher must also serve a 3-year term of supervised release.
  1. Dino Harrington, age 34, from Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 188 months’ imprisonment on November 19, 2018, following a guilty plea to distribution of heroin within 1,000 feet of a truck stop after a prior drug felony conviction.  Harrington must also serve a 6-year term of supervised release.
  1. Tiffany Youngblood, age 42, from Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 41 months’ imprisonment on November 19, 2018, following a guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, specifically heroin and fentanyl. Youngblood must also serve a 3-year term of supervised release.
  1. Garland Lightfoot, age 29, from Chicago, was sentenced to 188 months’ imprisonment on November 19, 2018, following a guilty plea to distribution and aiding and abetting the distribution of heroin after having been previously convicted of a felony drug offense.  Lightfoot must also serve a 6-year term of supervised release.
  1. Rolando Brown, age 31, from Chicago, was sentenced to 120 months’ imprisonment on November 19, 2018, following a guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more within a protected location after having previously been convicted of a felony drug offense.  Brown must also serve a 8-year term of supervised release.
  1. Julius Sullivan, age 27, from Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment on April 3, 2019, following a guilty plea to distribution of a controlled substance within a protected location.  Sullivan must also serve a 6-year term of supervised release.
  1. Joseph Mercil, age 34, from Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 164 days’ imprisonment on February 6, 2019, following a guilty plea to possession of a controlled substance after prior drug convictions.  Mercil must also serve a 1-year term of supervised release.
  1. Eddy Watt, age 30, from Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 64 months’ imprisonment on October 17, 2018, following a guilty plea to aiding and abetting the distribution of heroin.  Watt must also serve a 3-year term of supervised release.
  1. Jason Bates, age 44, from Urbana, was sentenced to 300 months’ imprisonment on August 22, 2019, following a guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within a protected location, possession of a firearm by a felon, and distribution of heroin resulting in serious bodily injury.  Bates must also serve a 6-year term of supervised release.
  1. Patrick Richmond, age 36, from Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 78 months’ imprisonment on December 18, 2019, following a guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute heroin, cyclopropyl fentanyl, methoxyacetyl fentanyl, and fentanyl near a protected location.  Richmond must also serve a 6-year term of supervised release.
  1. Scott Krumbholz, age 38, from Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment on April 2, 2019, following a guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute heroin near a protected location.  Krumbholz must also serve a 6-year term of supervised release.
  1. Andrew Bobenhouse, age 35, from Cedar Rapids, was sentenced to 114 days’ imprisonment on April 2, 2019, following a guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute heroin.  Bobenhouse must also serve a 3-year term of supervised release.
  1. Walter Malano Collins Murray, Jr., age 19, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was sentenced to 37 months’ imprisonment on December 30, 2019, following a guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute at least 100 grams of heroin.
  1. Cortez Nelson, age 30, from Chicago, Illinois, was sentenced to 151 months’ imprisonment on May 20, 2020, following a guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute at least 1,000 grams of heroin.
  1. Dewon Earl Meeks, age 30, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was sentenced to 71 months’ imprisonment on May 20, 2020, following a guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute at least 100 grams of heroin.
  1. Anthony Ricks, age 31, from Chicago, pleaded guilty on January 16, 2020, to conspiracy to distribute at least 100 grams of heroin.  Ricks will be sentenced on July 10, 2020, at 11:00 a.m.

Sean Jarel Williams, age 30, from Chicago, Illinois, pleaded guilty on January 21, 2020, to conspiracy to distribute at least 1,000 grams of heroin.  Williams’ will be sentenced on August 28, 2020, at 9:30 a.m.  Devontae Horton, age 25, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, after a February 10, 2020, jury trial.  Horton’s sentencing date has not yet been set.

“Deadly opioids continue to take their toll on our communities,” said United States Attorney Peter Deegan.  “Thanks to the hard work of the Cedar Rapids Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration, with the assistance of many other law enforcement partners, a large-scale heroin trafficking organization has been taken off the streets.  We will continue to work together to send the sellers of this poison to prison.”

“The collaborative effort between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies involved in this operation is exactly what was needed to dismantle this well-organized and far-reaching Drug Trafficking Organization,” DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Darin Thimmesch said. “The investigators from the various teams involved relied on one another through each step of this three year investigation and together, were able to remove dangerous criminals and illicit drugs from the streets of our communities.  At DEA, we value our law enforcement partnerships and will continue to use this model to guide future missions.”

Lieutenant Robert Collins, Narcotics Division commander, said, “The Cedar Rapids Police Department, along with the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, and the Cedar Rapids Resident Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration began an investigation in July 2017 of several heroin sources in Cedar Rapids.  Narcotics investigators learned that a large number of low-level organizational members were Cedar Rapids residents and those selling heroin were from Chicago, Illinois.  Investigators were able to gather intelligence information that helped investigators identify organizational members and determine their respective roles in illegal narcotics trafficking.  With the cooperation of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, and investigators from the Cedar Rapids Police Department, Cedar Rapids DEA Task Force, Marion Police Department, Linn County Sheriff, University of Iowa Police, North Liberty Police Department, Coralville Police Department, and other law enforcement partners throughout Eastern Iowa, evidence was presented to a federal grand jury that resulted in indictments for over 20 individuals.  Seizures in the case included $6,500 in U.S. currency, one pound of heroin, and six handguns.”

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said, “Local law enforcement has a solid relationship with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa.  The United States Attorney’s Office has been completely supportive and provided assistance to investigators in efforts to combat the burgeoning heroin trafficking that was occurring in Cedar Rapids and throughout Eastern Iowa.  It is a key collaborative effort that has produced results and has made our community safer.  Drug trafficking is not a victimless crime, but rather poisons the community and those with substance abuse issues.  Further, illegal drug trafficking often results in other dangerous and violent crimes.  We have committed, dedicated narcotics investigators whose work is making a critical difference in reducing criminal activity in our community.”

All defendants that have been sentenced were sentenced by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand, District Court Judge Linda R. Reade, or District Court Judge C.J. Williams.

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4 Responses to Chicago man sentenced to prison for his role in large-scale heroin ring in Cedar Rapids

  1. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    June 3, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Prison, this SOB should be hung by the neck until dead.

  2. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    June 2, 2020 at 9:44 pm

    Better organize a blackout Tuesday for another upstanding gentleman.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      June 2, 2020 at 10:47 pm

      You are talking to the right group about the blackout. Williams’ may have been the source of the drugs, but white people made up the majority of his customers. I am sure they are mourning their loss and scrambling to find another source. But they are still white.

      • Avatar

        Anonymous Reply Report comment

        June 4, 2020 at 4:41 am

        Questions: How do you know what color his customers are? Why does that make any difference?

        Answer: You don’t. It doesn’t.