Judge sentences California man to life in prison for being the leader of a large-scale fentanyl distribution conspiracy

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

ST. LOUIS – Gerald Hunter, 56, of Los Angeles, appeared today before United States District Judge John A. Ross and was sentenced to life in federal prison.  Hunter was convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl, possession with intent to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl, conspiracy to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine, and two counts of money laundering.  A federal jury returned the verdicts after a week-long trial in October 2021. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted a long-term investigation of a fentanyl and cocaine distribution organization in St. Louis. Agents identified Hunter of Los Angeles as an out-of-state source of supply for the St. Louis organization. On April 27, 2017, DEA agents seized approximately 27 kilograms of fentanyl in Florissant, Mo.  Hunter was in possession of the bags containing the fentanyl, and his fingerprint was recovered from packaging material.  However, Hunter ran from investigators, and made good his escape.

The jury found that Hunter conspired to distribute fentanyl in St. Louis, but also that he possessed the fentanyl with the intent to distribute the drug in St. Louis. The evidence at trial established that the fentanyl was the equivalent of 270,000 usage units before being diluted, with a street value of $1 million. Hunter evaded arrest for three years before the U.S. Marshals Service arrested him. At the time of his arrest, Hunter was in possession of $220,000 in United States currency, 11 cellular phones and two identification cards with someone else’s name. Flight records established Hunter’s frequent pattern of travel to St. Louis from Los Angeles. 

“The sentence remanded to Gerald Hunter is a reminder there is a price to pay for those that choose to poison our communities with fentanyl.  This drug trafficking organization was dismantled by the hard work of numerous law enforcement agencies working together to stop the spread of fentanyl proliferated by Hunter and others,” said United States Attorney Sayler Fleming.  “The United States Attorney’s Office and our federal, state and local partners stand together to protect the community from those like Hunter and his associates.” 

“This sentencing today is good news for anyone who seeks justice for the many overdose deaths fentanyl is causing in St. Louis,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Colin Dickey, supervisor of DEA operations in Eastern Missouri. “Hunter and his associates are no longer a threat to St. Louis, but our job continues. Drug traffickers should heed the message we delivered to Hunter: DEA and our law enforcement partners will be relentless in dismantling and destroying the drug networks that cause harm to our communities.”

This case was investigated by the DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.