Three Carter County men, one a former church pastor, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to participating in an elaborate underground pill-trafficking network.
Scott Gilliam, 42, Michael Scott Logan, 38, and his nephew, Brandon Logan, 28, all of Olive Hill, all entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
The pleas were anticipated; attorneys for the three defendants had filed motions for their clients to be re-arraigned before U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning.
All three were named in an indictment returned Nov. 7 by a federal grand jury sitting in Covington. The three-count indictment alleges that between June 2010 and June 14 of last year, the defendants “did conspire together and with others to knowingly and intentionally distribute and possess with intent to distribute pills containing oxycodone.”
The indictment also accuses the Logans and Gilliam with separate offenses of knowingly and intentionally possessing oxycodone pills with intent to distribute them. Those charges will be dismissed at sentencing under the terms of their respective plea agreements.
Conspiracy to distribute oxycodone carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. However, the recommended sentencing guidelines for each defendant vary depending on the numbers of pills they are responsible for trafficking.
According to Bunning, Michael Logan was responsible for the largest number of pills trafficked of the three — 10,000 to 15,000 — and thus the highest base-offense level. That is expected to result in a recommended sentence of between 87 and 108 months, the judge said.
The guidelines are expected to be roughly the same for both Gilliam and Brandon Logan, 70 to 87 months, Bunning said. Gilliam’s responsibility is 4,900 pills, while Brandon Logan’s is more than 1,000. However, Brandon Logan will receive a two-level increase for firearms possession, according to the judge. Police found a Glock pistol during a search of his residence. The search also turned up notebooks and ledgers with records of drug transactions.
The firearms stipulation also renders Brandon Logan ineligible to receive a sentencing level reduction known as the “safety valve,” which is granted to some defendants who meet certain criteria. Gilliam and Michael Logan both could qualify for it.
The guidelines could change following pre-sentencing investigations. Bunning isn’t bound by the guidelines; he can depart upwards or downwards from them. However, the defendants’ attorneys can argue against the sentences if they are harsher than their clients anticipated.
Bunning scheduled sentencing for all three defendants for May 12.
The indictment of three was the result of a more than 18-month undercover investigation involving the FADE Drug Enforcement Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More than $1 million in cash and other assets were seized during the course of the investigation.
Gilliam is the former pastor of Perry’s Branch Holiness Tabernacle, which neighbors say closed down about a year and a half ago. Authorities said the church building was used as a “stash house” and a search of the building turned up a cache of approximately 2,400 30-milligram oxycodone tablets.
The dealings of the Logans and Gilliam are linked to the those of a Las Vegas man, Jarral Perkins. The pills the defendants trafficked were allegedly shipped to them by Perkins from Nevada via UPS and FedEx. The defendants would repackage would package the pills for resale and, upon selling then, send Perkins’ share of the proceeds back to him via the same shipping services or the U.S. Mail.
The operation was uncovered in June 2012 when FADE officers made a traffic stop near Olive Hill and recovered 28 oxycodone pills from the vehicle. The driver identified Brandon Logan as the source of the pills, which led to the search of his residence.
While officers were executing the warrant, Michael Logan showed up at the residence. A search of his person resulted in officers finding an envelope with notations of money sent to Perkins as payment for pills received and another piece of paper containing amounts of pills distributed.
A later search of Michael Logan’s residence resulted in the seizure of 28 oxycodone pills, $34,960 in cash, candles, wax and containers used to ship the pills from Las Vegas, drug paraphernalia and receipts for packages sent by Michael Logan to Perkins.
Perkins was indicted in July 2012 on charges to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and conspiracy to money-laundering. His case is still pending.
The Logans and Gilliam had all been free on bond. Bunning ordered all three remanded to custody following Wednesday’s hearing.
Kenneth Hart can be reached at email@example.com or 326-2654.