Final defendant in drug-trafficking organization sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy

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

STATESBORO, GA:  The last of seven defendants indicted in a multi-county drug trafficking operation has been sentenced to federal prison.

Matthew Scott Fondren, 50, of Metter, Ga., was sentenced to 36 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, Cocaine, “Crack” Cocaine, Hydrocodone, and Marijuana, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall also ordered Fondren to pay a fine of $1,500 and to serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison term.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“Operation Sand Trap is a textbook example of cooperation between multiple levels of law enforcement working together to identify, infiltrate and eradicate a drug-trafficking organization,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “These middle Georgia communities are now safer with these armed drug traffickers off the streets, and we will continue to pursue criminals whose drugs and guns fuel violent crime in our district.”

Operation Sand Trap, an Organized Crime Drug Trafficking Enforcement investigation, targeted a drug-distribution organization led by Travis Lee Brown, a/k/a “Trap,” 39, of Springfield, Ga. From 2017 to 2019, in counties including Emanuel, Candler and Treutlen, the organization brought in large quantities of illegal drugs through Atlanta and into the Lyons, Ga., area, for wider distribution. Agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, along with officers from the Lyons Police Department and other local agencies, conducted surveillance and covert operations to identify those involved in the conspiracy, seizing large amounts of drugs and at least a dozen firearms during the investigation.

A federal indictment returned in July 2020 charged seven defendants with 30 felony counts, and Fondren was identified as a major wholesaler in the conspiracy. Ultimately, all seven defendants including Fondren entered guilty pleas in federal court, and all have been sentenced to prison terms.

“DEA and its law enforcement partners worked jointly to eradicate the drug trafficking activities of this poly drug distribution network,” said the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division Robert J. Murphy. “This organization’s drug trafficking activities posed a significant threat to the quality of life in middle Georgia County community. Consequently, the sentencing of the final defendant in this case closes the chapter to a successful investigation.”

“This investigation once again shows that through the cooperation of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, persistent and dangerous narcotics traffickers such as these will ultimately have to face the criminal justice system,” said Joseph W. Cronin, Inspector in Charge of the Miami Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “The United States Postal Inspection Service is proud to be involved in this multi-agency effort.”

“Illegal drugs and guns have no place in Georgia,” said Vic Reynolds, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “They are dangerous and threaten the safety of our communities. We will continue to work diligently along with our local and federal partners to investigate and dismantle drug trafficking organizations.”

The case was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the Lyons Police Department, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karl Knoche and John P. Harper III.