Southern District of Georgia |  Georgia man convicted of key role in drug trafficking ring involved in COVID fraud

SAVANNAH, GA: A Laurens County, Georgia man identified as a drug supplier to a Southeast drug trafficking organization has been sentenced to federal prison and his four co-defendants are serving prison terms after they all pleaded guilty in connection with the conspiracy.

Dennis Rodriguez Kinchen, 46, of Dublin, Georgia, was sentenced to 150 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and a quantity 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 after completing his sentence.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“The defendants in this case not only distributed massive quantities of addictive, illegal drugs throughout central and coastal Georgia, but also defrauded taxpayers through the blatant misuse of COVID-19 relief programs,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “Thanks to the outstanding investigative work of our law enforcement partners, they were all rightly sentenced to lengthy prison sentences for their crimes.”

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

Kinchen and his co-defendants were identified during “Operation All Eyes On Me,” an organized crime task force investigation into drug traffickers who distributed cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in central and southern Georgia and Florida. The five co-conspirators were identified through a series of controlled purchases, telephone 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 revealed that Angel Amaral, 57, of Hollywood, Florida, was the supplier of illegal drugs to Kinchen, who delivered the drugs to dealers in Georgia. Amaral is serving a 70-month sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess and 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 felony false imprisonment for knowingly allowing her home to be used for illegal activity and pleading guilty to bank fraud charges for submitting a false application Pandemic Relief filed, resulting in losses of $570,236.54. She was ordered to pay compensation in this amount. The court also issued a consent order forfeiting her interest in a $350,236 certificate of deposit and a $3,520 bank account, both of which were based on fraud funds seized from her during the investigation.

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

“Toxic drugs continue to pour into our communities and claim too many lives,” said Robert J. Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Division. “These human traffickers must now face the consequences of their actions.”

The case was investigated by 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-led, multi-agency approach.

Operation All Eyes On Me was investigated and prosecuted for the United States 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 the U.S. Secret Service of America by Marcela C. Mateo, Assistant U.S. Attorney and OCDETF Coordinator for the Southern District of Georgia, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Bishop Ravenel and Lindsay Berman-Hansell.