KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On September 23, 2020, Joseph C. Gonzales, 40, currently of Tazewell, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for participation in a drug dealing conspiracy by the Honorable Thomas A. Varlan, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Gonzales pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 841(a)(1); and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c). Gonzales was sentenced to 192 months in prison to be followed by 5 years’ supervised release.
Gonzales was part of a large-scale drug trafficking organization operating primarily in Claiborne and Knox counties. The investigation determined that individuals were obtaining kilogram quantities of methamphetamine from unknown individuals and then redistributing that methamphetamine in the Knox and Claiborne counties of Tennessee. Gonzales admitted to obtaining approximately 6 kilograms of methamphetamine and to purchasing a firearm to protect those drugs in the summer of 2018. A co-conspirator, an inmate incarcerated in the Tennessee Department of Corrections, using a contraband cell phone, coordinated the delivery of the 6 kilograms of methamphetamine recovered from Gonzales. In total, 21 individuals were indicted in connection with this investigation, and all have now entered guilty pleas and been sentenced. The investigation, which began in July 2017, resulted in the seizure of more than 6.5 kilograms of actual methamphetamine, numerous firearms, and U.S. currency.
The criminal indictment resulted from an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office, the 8th Judicial District Drug Task Force, the Knoxville Police Department, the Tazewell Police Department, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Assistant United States Attorney Caryn L. Hebets represented the United States.
The investigation is a result of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s drug supply reduction strategy. OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.