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Friday, January 31, 2020

Detroit Heroin Dealer Convicted by Federal Jury on Multiple Charges


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A federal jury found a Detroit, Michigan man guilty of conspiracy to distribute heroin, using and carrying a firearm during the heroin conspiracy, and tampering with a witness, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  Curtis Watson, also known as “LOW,” conspired with other drug traffickers from Detroit, Michigan and Charleston, West Virginia, to distribute in excess of 700 grams of heroin in the Southern District of West Virginia.

“I commend the work of law enforcement and my prosecution team for securing the conviction of this dangerous Detroit drug dealer,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “Watson peddled a significant amount of heroin throughout southern West Virginia for which he is now being held accountable.”

Watson supplied a residence in the Hernshaw area with a substantial amount of heroin, which would then be sold to drug addicts and dealers. Shortly after the conspiracy began, Watson was losing money and he enlisted other Detroit drug traffickers to travel to West Virginia and sell more heroin.  Watson would provide these Detroit drug dealers with firearms to protect the heroin.  Upwards of $40,000 was being made in a given day at this residence. One witness described the house similar to a fast-food restaurant. Another witness described selling drugs out of the house from sun up to sunset.

Watson’s conspiracy ended on November  17, 2017, when the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department responded to the Hernshaw residence because of the drug trafficking activity.  Prior to law enforcement arriving, Watson dropped off more heroin and a Hi-Point firearm, and left the area.

After a federal grand jury indicted Watson on November 27, 2018, his first jury trial was scheduled on August 12, 2019.  On the day the trial was set to begin, a cooperating witness was threatened by Watson because the witness was coopering with the government. When Watson saw the witness at the federal courthouse, he yelled at the witness, “I got you! I got you!” After the encounter with Watson, the witness became concerned for their safety and was afraid to testify.   Subsequently, the federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment against Watson on September 18, 2019, adding a charge for tampering with a witness.

Watson faces mandatory five years and up to life in prison on the firearm offense which, by law, must be served consecutive to the other offenses. He faces mandatory five years and up to forty years on the conspiracy to distribute heroin in excess of 100 grams. Lastly, he faces up to twenty years on the tampering with a witness offense. At a minimum, Watson faces a mandatory minimum of ten years to life in federal prison when he is sentenced in June 2020.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the United States Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. 119 Drug and Violent Crime Task Force,  the West Virginia State Police, and the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department conducted the investigation.   United States District Judge Irene C. Berger presided over the trial.  Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan A. Saunders and Nowles H. Heinrich handled the prosecution.

North Carolina Man Charged With Child Exploitation Crimes


HARRISBURG - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Brendon Rothrock, age 21, of Kannapolis, North Carolina, formerly of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, was indicted on January 28, 2020, by a federal grand jury on child exploitation charges.

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, the indictment alleges that Rothrock aided and abetted the use of a minor to produce child pornography between January and February 2018, and received images of child pornography in February 2018.  The indictment also seeks forfeiture of all electronic equipment used to take and transmit those images. 

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Clancy is prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit  www.usdoj.gov/psc.  For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”

Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The maximum penalty under federal law for production of child pornography is 30 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.  The maximum penalty under federal law for receipt of child pornography is 20 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.

Ocala Convicted Felon Pleads Guilty To Federal Firearm Offense


Ocala, Florida – Kwasi Francis (29, Ocala) today pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Francis had been indicted on July 10, 2019.

According to court documents, on May 7, 2019, local law enforcement arrested Francis on unrelated criminal charges. While he was being processed at the Marion County Jail, booking staff discovered that Francis had concealed a loaded 9mm firearm between the multiple pairs of pants that he was wearing. Francis, who has prior felony convictions for burglary and heroin distribution, is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under federal law. 

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the City of Ocala Police Department, and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert E. Bodnar, Jr.

Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime. In the Middle District of Florida, U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez coordinates PSN efforts in cooperation with various federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.