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Defendants In Multi-Count Drug Indictment Face Sentencing

By David Howell

OXFORD – Sentencing for 14 men indicted in a multi-count indictment involving drug trafficking, money laundering and illegal gambling spanning more than six years is approaching.
    Dubbed the Raymond McKinney drug-trafficking organization, the group included two Water Valley men – Edward Scanlon and Shedlia “Shelly” Freeman –  involved in the distribution of cocaine, marijuana and hydrocodone from January, 2005, until September 17, 2012, from Texas to north Mississippi, according to court records.
    The apparent ringleader, Raymond McKinney lives in Texas and also had  a house in Water Valley.
    Other defendants include Raymond McKinney’s brother, Marlos McKinney, along with Jeremy Pettis Fondren, Billy McThune, Joseph Tyrone Barr, Randy Oneal Newsom, Shamus Gray, Marlos McKinney, Ronnie Brown, Quintin Terence Ford, Raheem Abdul Shabazz, Michael Alan Rutherford and Anthony Suggs.
Plea Agreements
    Both Raymond McKinney and Freeman were indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and three counts of Money Laundering– Interstate Commerce.
    Freeman is scheduled for sentencing on October 9 after entering a plea agreement back in May. In the agreement, he pleaded guilty to running a gambling business involving sports bookmaking/betting involving five or more persons with a gross revenue of at least $2,000 on any single, given day.  He also pleaded guilty to money laundering involving the proceeds of unlawful activities including drug trafficking and illegal gambling.  
    The first count carries up to five years imprisonment and the second count carries a maximum 20-year sentence. Freeman is represented by attorneys Brennan Horan and William Travis.
    Raymond McKinney also entered a plea agreement with the court on August 14, but a sentencing date has not been set. He pleaded guilty, nolo contender, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and money laundering.  Both charges carry up to 20 years imprisonment.  McKinney is represented by Michael J. Todd and Thomas Freeland, IV.
    Scanlon, 69, will be sentenced on Sept. 18, and faces up to five years on a drug charge and not less than five years on a single weapon’s charge for which he pled guilty as part of the plea agreement. The sentences are mandated to be served consecutively, with no possibility of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.
    In the plea hearing last October, Scanlon pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to distribute marijuana and a second count for possession of a firearm in commission of a drug crime. As part of the plea agreement, the federal prosecutor did not use Scanlon’s prior conviction as an enhancer for the gun crime.
    Initially Scanlon had 10 counts listed in the 12-page indictment, one count for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and nine counts stemming from the firearms in his home when it was raided. Scanlon is represented by Justin Straus Cluck.
    All three men – Scanlon, Raymond McKinney and Freeman, have been out on bail since their arrest in April, 2013.
History of The Case
    According to court documents, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN) launched the investigation into the trafficking operation in 2011. The drugs were moved from Texas to north Mississippi.
    The investigators initiated a court-authorized wire interception on Raymond McKinney’s phone and listened as Scanlon received multi-pound quantities of marijuana. On May 22, 2012, Scanlon paid Freeman approximately $11,000 in marijuana sale proceeds and another $11,000 on June 3, 2012.
    A search warrant was executed on Scanlon’s residence on July 11, 2012, where large amounts of marijuana, $9,730 in cash, numerous guns and three bullet-proof vests were all seized. The search also uncovered four “booby” traps in the master bedroom.
    In January, 2013, a federal grand jury indicted a dozen of the defendants in a sprawling, 12-page indictment outlining seven different counts that were spread among the defendants, with some like Scanlon initially facing multiple charges on the same count. The indictment remained sealed until the arrests were made public in April, 2013, and outlined a description of illegal activity that included distribution of cocaine, marijuana and hydrocodone. A superseding indictment outlining the same charges was filed by the feds last November that brought the total number of defendants to 14 and included Suggs’ name, which had been redacted from the first indictment, and bringing the total number of defendants to 14.
    According to indictments Raymond McKinney, Fondren and Freeman were involved in illegal gambling on sporting events with proceeds from drug transactions. McKinney would send out lines on the sporting events and betters would place bets with either McKinney or Freeman. A Wells Fargo bank account was used for the proceeds of the illegal gambling operation and narcotics operations, according to the indictment.
    The indictment also alleged the defendants were engaged in money laundering, specifically the proceeds of illegal activities that include gambling and drug trafficking.
    Also during the same time, former Water Valley police officer John Hernandez was indicted and convicted for extorting $5,000 in bribe money from a drug trafficker while working as an officer.
    While the identity of the drug trafficker was not revealed in the Bill of Infor-mation presented against Hernandez, the time of McKinney’s phone tap and details of the trafficking appear similar.  The Bill of Information includes information about a drug trafficking organization transporting narcotics from Texas to Mississippi.
    Hernandez was sentenced to serve one year and one day last October and is currently in federal custody.

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