Tazewell man sentenced in U.S. District Court in drug dealing conspiracy

Published 7:44 am Tuesday, September 29, 2020

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A Tazewell man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court – Eastern Division, on one count each of conspiracy to distribute illegal narcotics and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

Joseph C. Gonzales, 40, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his part in a drug dealing conspiracy involving the distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. Gonzales operated as part of a large-scale drug trafficking organization primarily spanning Claiborne and Knox counties.

His sentence involves 192 months in prison to be followed by 5 years supervision upon release.

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The investigation unearthed evidence that individuals were obtaining kilogram quantities of methamphetamine from unknown persons and then redistributing the narcotic inside the two counties.

Gonzales admitted appropriating approximately 6 kilograms of methamphetamine during the summer of 2018. Gonzales apparently purchased a firearm in order to protect the drugs.

A co-conspirator, an inmate at the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOT), apparently used a contraband cell phone to coordinate delivery of the drugs that were later recovered from Gonzales.

In total, 21 individuals were indicted in connection with this investigation. All have now entered guilty pleas and been sentenced.

The investigation, beginning in July 2017, resulted in the seizure of more than 6.5 kilograms of actual methamphetamine, numerous firearms and U.S. currency.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office, the 8th Judicial District Drug Task Force, the Tazewell and Knoxville Police Departments, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Administration worked together to bring about the conclusion of this case.

The investigation was the result of work done under the Department of Justice Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice 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.