For Immediate Release
Knoxville and Chattanooga Gang Members Convicted of Drug, Firearm and Money Laundering
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On July 23, 2021, a federal jury convicted Alim Turner, 23, Ushery Stewart, 22, Ronald Turner, 25, Kedaris Gilmore, 23, Mahlon Prater, Jr., 25, and Trevor Cox, 22, all of Knoxville, TN, and Demetrius Bibbs, 29, of Chattanooga, TN, of conspiring to distribute various controlled substances, including methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, marijuana, oxycodone, alprazolam, and buprenorphine. The jury also convicted various defendants, including Jyshon Forbes, 27, of Knoxville, of conspiracy to commit money laundering. In addition, multiple defendants were convicted of the possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking offenses, and numerous other counts involving the illegal distribution of drugs and unlawful possession of firearms in East Tennessee.
The verdict follows a two-week trial in front of United States District Judge Thomas A. Varlan in which all eight defendants were tried together. The defendants face varying terms of imprisonment of up to life in prison and $10,000,000 in fines. Sentencing hearings for all eight defendants will be set for early 2022.
According to court documents, seven other charged members of the conspiracy previously pleaded guilty. The second superseding indictment resulted from an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, Knoxville Police Department, Cleveland Police Department, Chattanooga Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, the Tennessee Department of Corrections, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also assisted in this investigation by conducting drug and firearms analysis on seized evidence in the case.
The proof presented at trial revealed that seven of the defendants were members of the Unknown Ghost Vice Lords in Knoxville and another defendant, Demetrius Bibbs, was a member of the Black P Stone Bloods in Chattanooga. The proof also showed that the members of the Unknown Ghost Vice Lords distributed kilogram quantities of methamphetamine and other drugs in the Knoxville and Chattanooga areas.
"This prosecution is part of the Department of Justice's comprehensive strategy to reduce violence and increase safety in the community by disrupting and dismantling violent criminal organizations that distribute highly addictive, dangerous, and deadly drugs, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine," said Acting United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III.
“This verdict demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to investigate violent criminal organizations and individuals who engage in this type of illegal activity. The teamwork between our agents and state and local law enforcement partners ensured there are fewer predators endangering and victimizing the vulnerable and innocent members of our community,” said Joseph E. Carrico, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Knoxville office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“This conviction is the result of the vigorous cumulative efforts of the Knoxville Police Department and its law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to address violent crime head on and make our community safer. By bringing addictive and deadly drugs into our area, these drug trafficking organizations are directly responsible for unimaginable tragedy and senseless violence that fragments families and destabilizes communities. In addition to our Organized Crime Unit investigators and various law enforcement partners, I want to specifically commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee for their extraordinary work on this case,” said Eve Thomas, Chief, Knoxville Police Department.
Assistant United States Attorneys David P. Lewen, Jr. and Brent N. Jones represented the United States.
This case was part of the Department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the HIDTA programs. OCDETF is the primary weapon of the United States against the highest level drug trafficking organizations operating within the United States, importing drugs into the United States, or laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking. The HIDTA program enhances and coordinates drug control efforts among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The program provides agencies with coordination, equipment, technology, and additional resources to combat drug trafficking and its harmful consequences in critical regions of the United States.
This case was also brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a comprehensive national program that brings together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. This program provides more options to prosecutors, allowing them to utilize local, state, and federal laws to ensure that criminals who commit gun crime face tough sentences. PSN gives each federal district the flexibility it needs to focus on individual challenges that a specific community faces.