California man responsible for distributing more than 100 kilograms of meth to more than 10 states gets 26 years in federal prison

NEW BERNNC – Joseph Willie Jr.31, California, was sentenced to 312 months in prison for his role as the leader of an armed, interstate methamphetamine-trafficking organization known as the Grape Street Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO).

“We are dismantling violent drug trafficking organizations and putting their leaders behind bars,” said US Attorney Michael Easley. “Gangs and cartels bringing poison to Raleigh and elsewhere in eastern North Carolina will face the full force of federal law enforcement, no matter where they live.”

“This was a significant investigation that impacted public safety in multiple states,” said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Bennie Mims. “We know that local drug traffickers can make a significant contribution to increasing violent crime rates. Disrupting a drug trafficking network of this magnitude has a major impact on making our communities in North Carolina and communities across the country safer.”

According to court documents, evidence presented in court and other documents, the Grape Street DTO was importing large quantities of highly pure – and highly addictive – crystal methamphetamine from Mexico.

DTO then distributed the drugs throughout the United States, including Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Willie Jr. was convicted of three counts: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine (count one); distribution of more than 500 grams of a substance containing methamphetamine (count two); and conspiracy to commit money laundering by concealment (count three).

The investigation revealed that from 2016 until his arrest in 2020, Willie Jr. responsible for the distribution of more than 100 kilograms of high purity methamphetamine. From those sales, Willie Jr. received more than a million dollars in drug proceeds.

Tanna Nash, Willie Jr.’s wife, received an additional quarter of a million dollars in drug proceeds from this organization.

Between July 2020 and February 3, 2021, Undercover ATF agents posing as a member of Willie Jr.’s inner circle. made 6 controlled purchases of over 3 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine from Willie Jr.

ATF he sent the money to Nash in California. After Nash received the money, Willie Jr. shipped methamphetamine to Raleigh and Kinston, North Carolina, in one- and two-pound increments.

The organization primarily distributed methamphetamine in Craven, Lenoir and Onslow counties. At the time of his arrest, Willie Jr. attempted to expand into Fayetteville, North Carolina.

In August 2018, Homeland Security (Border Enforcement Security Taskforce) investigators made three controlled purchases totaling twelve pounds of methamphetamine in Tampa, Florida, which were shipped at Willie Jr.’s direction.

According to information received from ATF Memphis as part of this investigation, Willie Jr. was a member of the violent Grape Street Crips.

According to information obtained as part of this three-year investigation, methamphetamine distributors in various states, including members and associates of the Grape Street Crips, would contact Willie Jr. and placing orders for methamphetamine to be sent to them.

Willie Jr. would provide how to make payments using a variety of methods, including wire transfers, peer-to-peer payment software, and national banks (stored in one state and selected by another in California) to avoid detection.

Willie Jr. had at least nine people in California receiving drug proceeds from other states; these proceeds were then transferred to Willie Jr.

On October 24, 2022, Tanna Nash was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison for Conspiracy for Possession with Intent to Distribute and Distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine, and Distribution of more than 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine.

It is part of Operation Fighting Jellyfish, which is part of the Organized Crime Drug Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles top-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Operation “Fighting Jellyfish” was also recognized with a Special Achievement Award from the North Carolina Gang Investigators Association.

Michael Easley, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after he was sentenced U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (Wilmington, North Carolina, Memphis, Tennessee and California), Homeland Security Investigations (Tampa (Best Unit) and California), Drug Enforcement Administration (California, North Carolina, Missouri and Ohio) , the United States Marshals Service, the Craven, Duplin, and Onslow County Sheriff’s Offices, and the Kinston, Goldsboro, and New Bern Police Departments, and the Los Angeles Police Department investigated the case and an assistant US attorney Timothy North prosecuted the case.

Related court documents and information can be found on the website US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching case no. 4:21-cr-00021-FL-1.

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