JAM | Sep 19, 2023

Jamaican convicted under US federal ‘drug kingpin’ statute

/ Our Today

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Durrant Pate/ Contributor

After deliberating for five hours, a jury in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has found Jamaican Racoco Williams guilty of six charges, including violating the federal “Kingpin” statute for leading a continuing criminal enterprise, as well as additional narcotics, conspiracy, and money laundering offences.

Williams, 41, was convicted last week following a three-week trial before Senior United States District Judge Joy Flowers Conti in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The law provides for a mandatory life sentence.

On September 13, the jury also found that approximately US$400,000 in cash, US$200,000 worth of jewellry, and a BMW sports utility vehicle should be forfeited to the government. The evidence at the trial established that Williams managed, supervised, and organised more than a dozen individuals in a large-scale, drug-trafficking enterprise that operated for approximately five years in multiple states.

Details of the case

Williams obtained substantial quantities of cocaine near the southwest border, in Phoenix, Arizona, and in other locations in western states, and then arranged for the cocaine to be transported to various cities in the eastern United States, including Charlotte, Atlanta, New York and Pittsburgh. As part of the enterprise, the prosecution led evidence that Williams took steps to hide his involvement in the cross-country transportation of drugs and cash proceeds.

Proof at trial showed that Williams used a series of young women, often facing difficult financial circumstances, to transport the cocaine through checked luggage on domestic airline flights. These women also transported the proceeds of Williams’s cocaine trafficking back to Phoenix via secret compartments in suitcases.

The convicted Jamaican it is said controlled members of the organisation through threats of violence, including threatening to kill one young woman and her entire family if she cooperated with law enforcement. During the conspiracy, Williams was associated with multiple seizures involving kilogramme-quantities of cocaine and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry.

Large cash seizures

For example, a search in 2012 resulted in the seizure of US$337,000 in cash concealed in secret compartments in eight suitcases. In 2014, Williams was arrested in Arizona, and a search of two suitcases in his vehicle uncovered approximately US$160,000 in cash.

In April 2017, law enforcement found a suitcase in a residence connected to Williams containing six kilogrammes of cocaine and US$78,500 in cash. Less than a month later, in May 2017, a search of Williams’s car and hotel room revealed approximately US$120,000 in cash and valuable jewellry.

Three months later in August 2017, a search of another hotel room in Williams’s name resulted in the seizure of 17 kilogrammes of cocaine, approximately US$192,000 in cash, and US$150,000 in jewellry. Even while he was incarcerated following the August 2017 seizure, trial evidence showed that Williams continued to orchestrate shipments of cocaine from Phoenix to the Pittsburgh area, including five kilogrammes of cocaine that he arranged to have concealed in a BMW sports utility vehicle loaded on a car carrier travelling from Arizona to Pittsburgh.

In reaching its verdict, the jury specifically determined that Williams was responsible for trafficking 150 kilogrammes or more of cocaine.

US authorities comment on William’s conviction

“For over five years, Racoco Williams stayed in the shadows and used a series of young women to move hundreds of kilograms of cocaine across the country for distribution in communities throughout the East Coast, including in the Pittsburgh area,” explained U.S. Attorney, Eric G. Olshan.

Continuing, Olshan commented, “This successful prosecution demonstrates our commitment to shining a light on those who seek to profit from the large-scale distribution of narcotics and sends a message that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I commend our law enforcement partners for their tireless work on this important and complex case.”

Special Agent in Charge of HSI Philadelphia, William S. Walker, remarked, “The partnership between HSI Philadelphia’s Pittsburgh office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Police continues to demonstrate the excellence in law enforcement that can be achieved through cooperation, information sharing, and side-by-side investigations. The agents, officers and prosecutors involved in this case have effectively brought down a criminal syndicate while freeing vulnerable young women from a life of criminality and violence. Well done to all involved.”

Assistant United States attorneys, Brendan T. Conway and Karen Gal-Or, represented the United States at trial. The Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations and the Pennsylvania State Police led the investigation that resulted in the prosecution of Williams.

Those agencies received valuable investigative assistance from numerous other law enforcement entities in Pennsylvania and Arizona, including: the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the Allegheny County Police, the Swissvale Police Department, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (Arizona), and the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (Arizona).


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