For Immediate Release
Illegal Possession of Drugs and Guns Lead to Years in Prison for Three Men
LAFAYETTE/ALEXANDRIA, La. – Three defendants have been sentenced in the Lafayette and Alexandria Divisions in the Western District of Louisiana today for drug trafficking and firearms charges, announced United States Attorney Brandon B. Brown.
United States District Judge Dee D. Drell sentenced Damien Romain Lavalais, 42, of Bunkie, Louisiana, to 262 months (21 years, 10 months) in prison, followed by 5 years supervised release, for distribution of methamphetamine. This charge is the result of an investigation by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into the drug trafficking activities of Lavalais. In July 2021, an undercover controlled purchase of methamphetamine was coordinated by agents with Lavalais. The meeting with him was monitored and recorded wherein he sold approximately 50 grams of methamphetamine to the individual. The narcotics were sent to the crime lab for analysis and confirmed to be methamphetamine with a purity level of 98%. Lavalais pleaded guilty to the charge on January 3, 2023.
The case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John W. Nickel.
United States District Judge Robert R. Summerhays sentenced Courtney Nacol Smith, 48, of Katy, Texas, to 60 months in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release, for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base. Evidence introduced in court revealed that Smith conspired with others from August 2019 through January 2021 to distribute narcotics, including cocaine and cocaine base in south Louisiana. Agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began their investigation into this drug trafficking organization in 2018 through the use of controlled purchases of narcotics with confidential sources, as well as the interception of wire communications between the defendants in this organization, including Smith. Surveillance by law enforcement agents observed one of Smith’s co-conspirators, Shawn D. White, travel to Texas from Louisiana to obtain drugs from Smith at his residence and another residence in the Houston area. White departed Smith’s residence in Texas and upon crossing the state line back into Louisiana, was stopped for a traffic violation. During a search of his vehicle, officers found one kilogram of cocaine wrapped in cellophane, electrical tape, and in a vacuum sealed bag concealed inside the car. Smith admitted to knowingly and willfully making an agreement with White and others to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base. Smith pleaded guilty to the charge on February 16, 2023.
The case was investigated by the DEA, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Louisiana State Police, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Vermaelen.
These cases are part of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
In a separate case, Scotty Latiolais, 51, of Erath, Louisiana was sentenced by United States District Judge S. Maurice Hicks, Jr. to 110 months (9 years, 2 months) in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. This charge stems from a discovery made by a law enforcement agent of a firearm in an outside area near the residence of Latiolais wherein a search warrant had been executed the day before. On June 17, 2020, law enforcement officers executed an arrest warrant for Latiolais and a search warrant for his residence. When officers first encountered Latiolais on the property, he led them on a brief foot chase before being apprehended. During the subsequent search of his residence, officers found and seized suspected methamphetamine, a digital scale, and a Night Owl 16 channel digital video recorder (DVR). Officers obtained a search warrant for the DVR device and later found a video of Latiolais handling a pistol on the property. Latiolais pleaded guilty on February 2, 2023, and admitted to possessing the firearm on June 17, 2020, despite the fact that he has a prior felony conviction for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine in 2019 and knew that he was prohibited from possessing any firearm or ammunition.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig R. Bordelon.