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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Middle District of Florida
Roger B. Handberg, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 9, 2023

Jacksonville Convicted Murderer Pleads Guilty to Armed Drug Trafficking

Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Ronald Bernard Thomas, Jr. (46, Jacksonville) today pleaded guilty to selling fentanyl and high-purity methamphetamine while armed and possessing firearms as a convicted felon. Thomas faces a maximum penalty of 20 years for each of the two counts of selling fentanyl, a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, and up to life, in prison for each of three counts of selling methamphetamine, a minimum of 5 years, up to life imprisonment, consecutive, for each of two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and a maximum of 10 years in prison for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Thomas’s sentence for the methamphetamine sales was enhanced because of his prior conviction for second-degree murder. The government intends to forfeit the two recovered firearms, which were used in the offenses.

According to court documents, Thomas had been convicted of second-degree murder with a firearm in Florida (2002) and was in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections from April 2002 through December 2017. In 2021, an individual who knew Thomas by the street name “Gorilla” informed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that they could purchase drugs from Thomas at a hotel in the area of the Jacksonville airport. On August 20, 2021, Thomas sold that individual a quantity of fentanyl.

In 2022, a second individual informed ATF that they could purchase drugs from “Gorilla,” who was then operating out of a hotel on Jacksonville’s southside. During the summer of 2022, at the direction of ATF, the individual purchased drugs from Thomas at that hotel, on several occasions. On two occasions, Thomas sold the individual approximately an ounce of methamphetamine that was up to 99% pure. During one of those drug sales, Thomas kept two firearms within his reach while measuring the drugs he was selling. On July 28, 2022, Thomas was arrested during a traffic stop on a federal arrest warrant. ATF agents searched Thomas and recovered a Glock 9mm pistol from his pants pocket, and a search of Thomas’s vehicle yielded an FN Herstal 5.7 x 28mm pistol, magazines loaded with ammunition, and drugs – including approximately a half ounce of fentanyl that was 95% pure.

As a convicted felon, Thomas is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition under federal law.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Laura Cofer Taylor. The asset forfeiture is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Mai Tran.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

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