Middle District of Georgia |  Convictions in cases of armed drug trafficking in the Athens area

ATHENS, Georgia — Three defendants found guilty in multiple investigations into armed drug trafficking in the Athens community were sentenced to federal prison this week for their crimes.

Stacey Collins, aka “Sue”, 45, of Alto, Georgia, was sentenced to 240 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. She previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute it in Case No. 3:22-cr-00009.

Juan Carlos Pimentel aka “Manuel Romero Gonzalez”, age unknown, from Athens and Mexico, was sentenced to 168 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He previously pleaded guilty to a heroin possession conspiracy with intent to distribute heroin in Case #3:20-cr-00045. Co-conspirator Steven Ricole Scott aka “Black” aka “Unc”, 47, of Athens, was sentenced to 120 months in prison followed by three years’ supervised release. He previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine with intent to distribute in Case No. 3:20-cr-00008.

US District Judge C. Ashley Royal announced the verdicts on July 10. There is no probation in the federal system.

“Not only are illicit controlled substances becoming increasingly lethal even with the intentional or unintentional incorporation of fentanyl, drug trafficking networks often fuel violent crimes that simply cannot be tolerated,” said US Attorney Peter D. Leary. “These cases demonstrate our office’s firm commitment to assisting law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels in their efforts to hold armed drug traffickers in the Athens area to account.”

“The conviction of these individuals completes a thorough investigation and demonstrates that the FBI and our partners will spare no resources in ending an epidemic in our society that is fueling violent crime and killing our citizens,” said Robert Gibbs, Supervisory Board Senior Resident Agent of the Athens Office of the FBI Atlanta. “We want to thank our partners who work tirelessly alongside us to take down these organized, violent criminal enterprises.”

“Drug trafficking breeds violence, and traffickers who engage in this dangerous lifestyle often protect their drug supplies with guns,” said Robert J. Murphy, the DEA Atlanta Field Division special agent in charge. “Consequently, these defendants will be serving their well-deserved time in prison.” The DEA and its law enforcement partners are committed to making communities safer by removing such criminals from the streets.”

According to court documents in the Collins case, federal agents learned in 2018 that co-conspirator Malcody Dinges aka “Cody” aka “Yes, Sir Cody,” 44, was conducting drug deals using contraband cellphones while incarcerated at Wheeler Correctional Facility. During the investigation, officers learned that Dinges communicated with Collins and other co-defendants in the Athens area about controlled substances; These individuals, under orders from Dinges, traveled to locations in Atlanta to obtain methamphetamine and returned to Athens to distribute the drugs. Dinges received a fee for brokering the business. Collins kept large amounts of Dinges’ drug proceeds, methamphetamine and other illegal substances at her home in northeast Georgia. A subsequent investigation resulted in her being arrested in possession of a five-gallon bag of methamphetamine and approximately $4,300 in cash. A search warrant was issued at her home, during which officers found several bags of methamphetamine and a firearm. Collins admitted she kept the drugs and up to $50,000 in cash at her home because she was a trusted employee of Dinges. Dinges was sentenced to serve 240 months in prison followed by three years’ supervised release after pleading guilty on December 16, 2021 to conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute it.

According to court documents in the Pimentel and Scott case, agents were investigating the distribution of illegal controlled substances and firearms from the Athens Gardens Apartment Complex by the late Rickshun Willingham of Athens. Willingham received medicines from Pimentel and Scott, and agents observed Willingham buying medicines from Scott’s warehouse at Lombardy Circle in Athens. In December 2019, during the investigation, Willingham arranged for Pimentel and another co-conspirator to purchase a kilogram of heroin for $77,000 at Pimentel’s home in Athens. Willingham told Scott he “robbed the Mexicans” using $50,000 in counterfeit currency. Scott warned him to be careful as they were carrying guns. Under surveillance, Pimentel carried out further heroin transactions in large quantities. In January 2020, several search warrants were executed, including in Pimentel’s apartment. Officers seized two firearms and ammunition, $20,000 in cash, several cell phones used for drug distribution, receipts for money transfers to Mexico, and vacuum-sealed bags. Additional narcotics were found in the warehouses of the co-conspirators named in the indictment. Pimentel is responsible for distributing three to ten kilograms of heroin. Scott is responsible for distributing 780 grams of crack cocaine.

The Collins case was handled by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Banks County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia State Patrol (GSP), the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Appalachian RDEO, and the Northeast Georgia Regional Drug Task Force.

The Pimentel and Scott case was investigated by the FBI, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and the Georgia State Patrol (GSP).

Assistant US Attorney Tamara Jarrett led the cases for the government.