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Monday, February 26, 2024

Georgia Man Sentenced for Key Role in Drug Trafficking Ring that Engaged in COVID Fraud

Kinchen and his co-defendants were identified during “Operation All Eyes On Me,” an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation of drug traffickers distributing cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in middle and south Georgia and in Florida.

A Laurens County, Ga., man identified as a drug supplier in a Southeastern drug trafficking organization has been sentenced to federal prison, and his four co-defendants are serving prison terms after all pled guilty to charges related to the conspiracy.

Dennis Rodriguez Kinchen, 46, of Dublin, Ga., was sentenced to 150 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, 500 Grams or More of Cocaine, and an Amount of Methamphetamine, Heroin, and Marijuana; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker also fined Kinchen $40,000 and ordered him to serve four years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“The defendants in this case not only distributed massive amounts of addictive, illegal drugs throughout middle and coastal Georgia, but also defrauded taxpayers through blatant abuse of COVID-19 relief programs,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “All of them deservedly have been sentenced to long prison terms for their crimes thanks to outstanding investigative work from our law enforcement partners.”

As part of his guilty plea, Kinchen agreed to forfeit an Atlanta condominium purchased with COVID-19 relief funds, and a certificate of deposit of $297,336 purchased with pandemic relief funds.

Kinchen and his co-defendants were identified during “Operation All Eyes On Me,” an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation of drug traffickers distributing cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in middle and south Georgia and in Florida. The five co-conspirators were identified through a series of controlled purchases, phone surveillance and searches of multiple properties conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and agents from the Savannah-Chatham Counter Narcotics Team.

The investigation identified Angel Amaral, 57, of Hollywood, Fla., as the supplier of illegal drugs to Kinchen, who delivered the drugs to distributors in Georgia. Amaral is serving a 70-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, Cocaine.

Kinchen used the Savannah residence of his girlfriend, former Savannah-area strip club owner Jaqueline Somesso, 54, as a stash house for drugs and firearms. Somesso is serving an 18-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to Misprision of a Felony for knowingly allowing her home to be used in illegal activity and to Bank Fraud for submitting a fake pandemic relief application resulting in losses of $570,236.54. She was ordered to pay restitution in that amount. The court also entered a consent order forfeiting her interest in a certificate of deposit of $350,236 and a bank account of $3,520, both containing fraud money seized from her during the investigation.

Two other defendants are serving prison terms after pleading guilty in the conspiracy: Sherman Levon Scott, 54, of Pooler, Ga., who was identified as a drug distributor; and Tony Heldore, 52, of Richmond Hill, Ga., a marijuana supplier who worked at two of Somesso’s clubs – Karma Entertainment and Lux Gentlemen’s Club, in Hardeeville, S.C. Scott is serving 145 months in federal prison, and Heldore is serving a 35-month term.

“Poisonous drugs continue to flow into our communities at the expense of too many lives,” said Robert J. Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Division. “These traffickers must now face the consequences of their actions.”

The case was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.

Operation All Eyes On Me was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Savannah District Office and the Savannah-Chatham County Counter Narcotics Team, with assistance from the DEA Miami Field Division, the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Secret Service, and prosecuted for the United States of America by Southern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorney and OCDETF Coordinator Marcela C. Mateo, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Bishop Ravenel and Lindsay Berman-Hansell.

Read more at the Justice Department

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