A Biloxi man pled guilty to conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, announced U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca and Special Agent in Charge Brad Byerley of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Jamaar Saunders, 29, was the last defendant in an eight-person conspiracy that was originally charged in October of 2021. Saunders will be sentenced on January 26, 2023.
According to court documents and information presented to the Court, in 2020, the DEA and Gulfport Police Department began investigating a local drug trafficking conspiracy involved in the distribution of oxycodone, marijuana, alprazolam, methamphetamine, and pressed fentanyl pills. As part of the investigation, law enforcement obtained access to the conspirators’ social media and cell phone messages. During the investigation, law enforcement officers learned that various members of the organization, like many drug traffickers, possessed firearms to protect themselves, their drugs, and their proceeds from the sale of drugs. In addition, some members of the conspiracy invested in the purchase of firearms for subsequent resale. Law enforcement officers also discovered that members of the conspiracy transferred firearms between themselves to further the conspiracies goals. With respect to Jamaar Saunders, officers were able to determine that he was involved in the distribution of controlled substances and the acquisition/provision of firearms to at least one other member of the conspiracy.
As a result of this investigation, Jamaar Saunders, Raheem Lane, Mary Matthews, D’Laun Ball, and Malyk Harveston, pled guilty to conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Sernareo Barnett, Nigel Saunders, and Lafayette Copeland pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. Each of these offenses carried a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment. In addition, Raheem Lane pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime which exposed him to a consecutive sentence of between 5 years and life imprisonment.
Jamaar Saunders, D’Laun Ball, and Raheem Lane are currently awaiting sentencing. The remaining defendants have already been sentenced.
As a result of the charges brought in this case, and related cases that were brought against Kristopher Weaver and Tyrik Frazier, law enforcement officers seized: 25 firearms, over $25,000 in cash, six vehicles, fentanyl, alprazolam, marijuana, and methamphetamine. The firearms, cash, and vehicles have been or are in the process of being forfeited.
The DEA and Gulfport Police Department investigated this case with assistance from the Biloxi Police Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Buckner is prosecuting the case.
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.