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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Wisconsin
For Immediate Release
Timothy M. O’Shea, United States Attorney
Friday, March 17, 2023

Madison Man Sentenced to 102 Months for Firearm & Drug Trafficking Crimes

MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Sylvester Ray Gavins, Jr., 32, Madison, Wisconsin, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley to 102 months in prison for possessing cocaine with intent to distribute and possessing a firearm in furtherance of that drug crime. Gavins pleaded guilty to these charges on December 6, 2022.

On March 26, 2021, law enforcement agents arrested Gavins on state warrants as he was walking out of a hotel in Monona. Gavins was carrying two backpacks that contained 135 grams of a cocaine-fentanyl mixture, 26 grams of a heroin-fentanyl mixture, 659 grams of marijuana, $5,600 in cash, and a loaded .40 caliber handgun. Agents also seized and searched his cell phone, finding evidence that he was selling drugs.

At the time of this offense, Gavins was on supervision after being released from prison for a 2012 Wisconsin heroin trafficking conviction. Gavins’ criminal history dates back to 2007 when he was 17 years old and includes another 2012 heroin conviction in Indiana.

At sentencing, Judge Conley questioned how Gavins was able to rationalize selling drugs when he and his family had suffered from drug use and addiction. Noting Gavins’ criminal history, Judge Conley said that after he was released from prison that Gavins was smart enough to not use the stronger drugs that he still sold to others. Judge Conley also noted the “scourge of fentanyl” affecting the community.

The conviction for possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking carried a mandatory minimum penalty of five years to be served consecutive to the 42-month sentence on the drug charge.

The charges against Gavins were the result of an investigation conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Stephan.

This case has been brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the U.S. Justice Department’s program to reduce violent crime. The PSN approach emphasizes coordination between state and federal prosecutors and all levels of law enforcement to address gun crime, especially felons illegally possessing firearms and ammunition and violent and drug crimes that involve the use of firearms.

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