Drug Sweep

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 21, 2012

After drug sweep, five from Panola enter pleas

OXFORD – Five people from Panola County have pleaded guilty to  federal drug charges.
Lonzo Lesell Griffin of Courtland and Cypress, Texas, Michael Ladell  Allen of Batesville and Clemeko Dewayne Starks of Sardis, Nekeshia  McKinney of Sardis and Shantana Shana Joiner of Batesville were among  26 people arrested in late 2010 when officers with the Batesville  Police  Department assisted as 19 search warrants were executed  simultaneously in Yalobusha County, Panola County, West Point,  Tupelo, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Texas.

Court papers described Allen and Griffin as main players in a large-scale cocaine and marijuana distribution organization in North  Mississippi.

Both men were arrested at separate locations in Grenada on November 16, 2010.

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Griffin initially faced 23 counts before pleading  guilty to conspiracy to possess and distribute powder cocaine. The plea came on  August 9, just as the trial was scheduled to get underway.

He faces  up to 10 years to life in prison and $10 million in fines for that  charge.

Griffin also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct financial  transactions involving proceeds from his unlawful activity. He faces up to 20 years in prison and hefty fines for this count.

Allen initially was indicted on 23 counts but pleaded guilty to one  count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute powder cocaine.

Griffin organized and led the organization’s cocaine and marijuana and money laundering operation, according to court documents. He  would obtain the drugs in Texas, reportedly from a Mexican source,  and bring it to Mississippi using carriers.

The organization was responsible for transporting and distributing approximately 20 kilograms of cocaine and in excess of 500 pounds of marijuana into the state each month, according to press release from  the Mississippi Department of Public Safety following the arrests.

Both Griffin and Allen would supply large quantities of cocaine and marijuana to a number of  distributors scattered across the state.

Starks pleaded guilty to a single count of  conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute powder cocaine.

McKinney and Joiner also pled guilty to a single count to avoid trials scheduled to start August 6.