Federal Jury Convicts Bryan Cornelius On Multiple Drug Trafficking Conspiracies, Money Laundering Conspiracies, And Possession And Discharge Of A Firearm In Furtherance Of His Drug Trafficking Crimes

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

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. On April 26, 2022, following a six-day trial in United States District Court, Knoxville, Tenn., a jury convicted Bryan Cornelius, 31, of Knoxville, Tennessee, of Conspiracy to Distribute over 50 grams of Methamphetamine, Conspiracy to Distribute over one kilogram of heroin and over 40 grams of Fentanyl, Conspiracy to Distribute over 100 kilograms of marijuana, Conspiracy to commit Money Laundering, Distributing over 50 grams of Methamphetamine, and Possession and Discharge of a Firearm in furtherance of his drug trafficking crimes. 

Sentencing for Cornelius is set for October 3, 2022, at 2:00 p.m., in the United States District Court before United States District Court Judge Thomas A. Varlan, in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Cornelius faces a sentence of life in prison.

The evidence presented at trial included wiretaps of multiple cellular phones, multiple search warrants at various Knoxville residences, narcotics, firearms, and cash seizures.  The evidence showed that Cornelius, a member of the Gangster Disciples street gang, was ordering narcotics from different sources of supply in California and receiving packages of methamphetamine and marijuana through the United States Postal Service (USPS), Fed-Ex, and UPS throughout 2019 and that he maintained multiple addresses across Knoxville to stash his narcotics, firearms, and cash to facilitate his narcotics distribution.  In addition, the evidence showed that, in furtherance of his drug trafficking, at approximately 2:45 p.m. on November 21, 2019, Cornelius, along with two others, drove by the Stop-n-Go on Brooks Avenue and Cornelius fired fifteen rounds of 7.62mm into a Mercedes-Benz.  The driver sustained two non-life-threatening gunshot wounds. 

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Cornelius was the one defendant in a 23-person indictment who proceeded to trial; all other defendants entered guilty pleas.

Law enforcement agencies participating in the joint investigation which led to indictment and subsequent conviction of Cornelius included the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) HIDTA Task Force and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).  The FBI HIDTA Task Force includes the Roane County Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville Police Department, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, and Sevier County Sheriff’s Office.  The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, also assisted in this investigation by conducting drug analysis on seized narcotics in the case.  

“This prosecution is part of the Department of Justice’s comprehensive strategy to reduce violence and increase safety in the community by prosecuting violent criminals who use firearms in furtherance of their distribution of highly addictive and dangerous drugs, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III.

“Illegal drugs are the scourge of society and the cause of devastation for many families. The FBI, along with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners are committed to identifying, disrupting, and holding those accountable who are responsible for harming our communities through their illegal activities,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Joe Carrico. 

“The Postal Service has no interest in being the unwitting accomplice to anyone using the U.S. Mail to distribute illegal drugs or other harmful substances,” said Tommy D. Coke, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to keep dangerous drugs out of the communities we serve.”

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Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cynthia Davidson and Alan Kirk represented the United States at trial.


This case was part of the Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the HIDTA programs.  OCDETF is the primary weapon of the United States against the highest-level drug trafficking organizations operating within the United States, importing drugs into the United States, or laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking. The HIDTA program enhances and coordinates drug control efforts among local, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies. The program provides agencies with coordination, equipment, technology, and additional resources to combat drug trafficking and its harmful consequences in critical regions of the United States.

This case is also part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders working together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.  As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

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