Two More Guilty Pleas Entered in Vallejo-Based Drug Trafficking Indictments
SACRAMENTO, CA—Andre Cawthorne, 40, of Vallejo, and Eileen Knight, 43, of Los Angeles, entered guilty pleas to drug trafficking charges arising out of a wide-ranging investigation into the distribution MDMA, popularly known as the drug “Ecstasy,” crack cocaine, heroin, Oxycodone, and marijuana in the Vallejo area, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, the DEA-led investigation uncovered a network of drug distributors working in the “Crest” neighborhood of Vallejo along with individuals transporting large quantities of drugs outside of California to realize a larger profit. A number of the participants, including Major Norton and Gaylord Franklin, performed as rappers under the entertainment label known as “Thizz Entertainment.” In many of songs by artists on the Thizz Entertainment label, the lyrics glorify and promote the use and distribution of MDMA pills. In April 2012, agents arrested a total of 25 individuals in Vallejo, Stockton, Fairfield, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, and Oklahoma City. During the investigation, agents seized approximately 45,000 MDMA pills, four pounds of crack cocaine, two pounds of heroin, and $200,000 in suspected drug proceeds. Agents also forfeited 230 acres of property valued at approximately $1 million as part of the investigation. Agents also seized a 2010 Audi A6 with an estimated value of $60,000.
Cawthorne and Knight are scheduled to be sentenced on December 11, 2014. Cawthorne faces a maximum statutory sentence of four years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Knight face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
Other defendants indicted in this investigation have recently entered guilty pleas:
- Michael Lott, 50, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute MDMA and crack cocaine;
- Major Norton, 39, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute MDMA;
- Gaylord Franklin, 34, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute MDMA;
- Dante Barbarin, 43, pleaded guilty to using a phone to facilitate drug dealing;
- Clifford Bullock, 37, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana;
- Ung Duong, 48, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute MDMA;
- Phat Nguyen, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute MDMA;
- Narco McFarland, 46, pleaded guilty to using a phone to facilitate drug trafficking;
- Damian Peterson, 37 pleaded guilty to using a phone to facilitate drug trafficking; and
- Mikel Brown, 51 pleaded guilty to using a phone to facilitate drug trafficking.
This case is the product of an investigation by the DEA Sacramento District Office, the Vallejo Police Department, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, and the Sacramento FBI Safe Streets Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Jason Hitt is prosecuting the two related cases. It was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF Program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.