Leesburg man convicted in multi-county federal drug case

Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 4:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 4:59 p.m.

A Leesburg man was convicted Tuesday by a federal jury for conspiring to distribute more than $1.4 million worth of cocaine and crack cocaine in Levy and Dixie counties. Six other people facing similar federal charges have entered plea deals with federal prosecutors while 69 others are being prosecuted in state court.

Clarence Darnell Marshall, 31, of Leesburg, is scheduled to be sentenced on April 6 for his conviction. His trial lasted less than two days at the federal courthouse in Gainesville and included testimony by some of the Cross City and Chiefland residents implicated in the case. Prosecutors said the volume of drugs involved was 5 kilograms of powder cocaine — with a street value of more than $110,000 — and more than 50 kilograms of crack cocaine with a street value of at least $1.4 million.

The case was the result of separate undercover operations in Levy and Dixie counties converging after a high speed chase. The Levy County Sheriff’s Office was conducting an operation known as Yellow Fever while the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office was conducting an investigation known as Gill Net.

In April when the drug arrests were made public, spokesmen for the sheriffs’ offices said they began to work together with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and with federal officials after a man led Levy County officials on a high speed chase into Dixie County. The chase ended at the home of a previously convicted drug dealer, tipping off investigators into the interconnectedness of a drug network operating in the two rural, coastal counties.

When the arrests were made, Dixie County Sheriff’s Captain Chad Reed said that for those involved, “It’s like this is their job and they work hard at it. They use modern technology and do everything they can do to make sales. This is what these people know how to do.”

County investigators said their separate investigations had been on finding those responsible for converting powder cocaine into crack, especially the middle and higher level operatives. The additional help from state and federal investigators allowed them to break up what had been an extensive drug network.

Federal officials said decisions on who would be charged federally — which would likely lead to stiffer sentences — were made by prosecutors who considered criminal histories, volume of drugs and extent of involvement among other factors.

Marshall was the last of those charged federally in the case. Those who entered federal plea deals previously included; Andre Delaney Thompson, 35, of Chiefland; Nacola Monique Brown, 25, of Chiefland; Dearmus Cezhan Lovett, 34, of Cross City; Juan Antrell Washington, 32, of Cross City; Willie Charles Carter Jr., 38, of Cross City; and Jaquana Adeline McPhee, 28, of Leesburg.

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