United States Attorney Brandon J. Fremin announced the conviction of two defendants charged in Operation Hidden Fee, an extensive federal, state, and local investigation by the Middle District Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) aimed at a narcotics trafficking network in Baton Rouge. The Indictment filed in this matter charged significant offenses involving heroin, methamphetamine, and “crack” cocaine, as well as several firearms offenses.
On October 27, 2020, Travis R. James, age 30, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the leader of this drug trafficking organization, appeared before U.S. Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick and pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute one or more kilograms of heroin, five or more kilograms of cocaine, and 280 grams or more of “crack” cocaine; conspiracy to launder monetary instruments; and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He faces a maximum penalty of not less than ten years’ imprisonment and up to life imprisonment, over $10,000,000 in fines, and forfeiture of criminally-derived proceeds.
On October 28, 2020, Troy James, age 39, of New Roads, Louisiana, appeared before U.S. Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick and pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and “crack” cocaine. He faces a maximum penalty of twenty years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,000,000, and forfeiture of criminally-derived proceeds.
An extensive investigation revealed that Travis James and Troy James conspired with each other and with others to negotiate for and purchase kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin in Houston. Their source of supply in Houston in turn received the narcotics from Mexico. Travis James, Troy James, and others then brought the narcotics to Baton Rouge for sale and distribution. To this end, Travis James maintained local stash houses where he kept hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, stored and cut large quantities of cocaine into smaller distribution amounts, and cooked powder cocaine into “crack” cocaine.
Travis James entrusted Troy James to supervise couriers and prepare cash for transport to Houston to purchase the narcotics. On June 12, 2017, Travis James directed an associate to take approximately $200,000 in cash to Troy James who then turned the cash over to two couriers. Law enforcement interdicted the couriers on a Greyhound bus bound for Houston and seized the bundled cash wrapped in duct tape. The investigation uncovered other significant cash purchases of narcotics by the Travis James narcotics trafficking organization in Houston.
On June 13, 2017, while executing search warrants at Travis James’ stash houses in Baton Rouge, investigators seized over $300,000 in cash, narcotics paraphernalia, and six firearms, including three AK-style pistols, ammunition, and high-capacity magazines. An additional $179,000 in cash was seized in another warrant search from Travis James’ safe deposit box at a local bank. Travis James had an earlier conviction for possession of cocaine, arising in the 19th Judicial District Court, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
U.S. Attorney Fremin stated, “The convictions of two members of this drug trafficking organization was the result of a long term, extensive investigation by our federal, state, and local partners, and demonstrate that this office will shepherd these resources to disrupt the drug trade in our communities. I want to thank our prosecutors and all of our partners for their excellent work in this case.”
The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program was established in 1982 to mount a comprehensive attack against organized drug traffickers. Today, the OCDETF Program is the centerpiece of the United States Attorney General’s drug strategy to reduce the availability of drugs by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations and money laundering organizations and related criminal enterprises. The OCDETF Program operates nationwide and combines the resources and unique expertise of numerous federal, state, and local agencies in a coordinated attack against major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.
This investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration with invaluable assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Baton Rouge City Police Department, and the Louisiana State Police. Other agencies assisted in apprehending the defendants, including the U.S. Marshal’s Service, and the Sheriff’s Offices in Ascension, Iberville, and West Baton Rouge Parishes.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Piedrahita and Lyman Thornton, III.