Two-Year Investigation Leads to Convictions in Orangeburg/Richland County Cocaine Trafficking Ring
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 16, 2009|
COLUMBIA, SC—United States Attorney W. Walter Wilkins announced today that a jury found Sigmund James, Tommy Lott, Alcindo Matthews, Sheree Peoples, and Anthony Sellers, all of Orangeburg, South Carolina, guilty Tuesday afternoon in federal court in Columbia. Three of the defendants on trial—JAMES, LOTT, and SELLERS—were convicted of conspiring to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, a violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846. The three were also convicted on various other drug and gun charges related to their participation in the conspiracy.
In connection with the drug conspiracy, co-defendants MATTHEWS and PEOPLES were convicted, along with JAMES, of conspiring to launder James’ drug proceeds, a violation of Title 18, United States Code Section 1956(h). In total, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all 27 counts of the Indictment. United States District Judge Margaret B. Seymour of Columbia, South Carolina presided over the trial and will impose sentence after she has reviewed the presentence reports which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
According to the evidence at trial, the investigation of these individuals began in May of 2007, when South Carolina Highway Patrol Troopers stopped Sigmund JAMES in Orangeburg and found him to be in possession of over $8000.00 cash. Suspecting the money to be drug proceeds, agents of the federal Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, comprised of federal, state, and local agencies, initiated a two-year investigation that has, to date, resulted in four South Carolina Indictments and the successful prosecution of over 50 people in Richland and Orangeburg County, South Carolina, and additional prosecutions in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Testimony revealed that agents had wiretaps on phones used by various members of the conspiracy, including JAMES. Members of the jury heard numerous recorded conversations between JAMES others, including his co-defendants, in which they discussed the purchase and sale of large quantities of cocaine. James was also recorded discussing and directing the movement of his drug proceeds. Over the course of the investigation, agents seized over 25 kilograms of cocaine and over $1,000,000 in drug proceeds and other assets.
The investigation was the result of cooperation between the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety, the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division (IRS-CID), with the valued assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, and the City of Columbia Police Department.
Mr. Wilkins stated that, as a result of their convictions, JAMES, SELLERS, and LOTT face potential life sentences; MATTHEWS and PEOPLES face up to 20 years in prison for their role in the money laundering.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys J.D. Rowell, Jane B. Taylor, and Jay N. Richardson.