Orlando, Florida – U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton, Jr. has sentenced Avery Lans (55, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands) to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. His coconspirator, Wayne Ellsworth Stout, Jr. (35, Miami), was sentenced to 9 years’ imprisonment. Lans’s sentence was enhanced based on the danger he caused during his attempted escape from law enforcement on June 1, 2022. After his arrest, HSI learned that Lans was convicted of second-degree murder in 1990 in the Virgin Islands and pardoned in 2014 after serving over 20 years of his 40-year sentence. Lans and Stout were indicted on June 15, 2022. Lans was convicted after a jury trial on October 3, 2022. Stout pleaded guilty on August 19, 2022.
According to evidence presented at trial, on June 1, 2022, Stout drove from Miami to Orlando and retrieved a duffle bag from a storage locker in the Edgewater area. Agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) were conducting surveillance on Stout as he traveled from Miami to Orlando and as Stout left the storage locker and went to the parking lot of a restaurant in the Winter Park area. At approximately 1:45 p.m., Lans arrived and received the duffle bag in a short, 30-second meeting. After circling the block, Lans led HSI surveillance agents to the corner of Lee Road and Wymore Road, where he abruptly turned on to Wymore Road in an attempt to escape while dropping the duffle bag out of his passenger side window. After a brief high-speed chase, Lans was detained and the duffle bag was retrieved. It contained five kilograms of cocaine, wrapped in black tape with a marking on it.
When HSI agents searched the storage locker in Edgewater, they found three coolers containing 109 kilograms of cocaine, some of which contained the same black and gold marking as the five-kilogram bricks that Lans was carrying.
A kilogram of cocaine was estimated to be worth at least approximately $27,000. Lans was carrying $135,000 of cocaine when he unsuccessfully attempted to flee. The storage locker contained nearly $3 million of cocaine.
The United States referenced conversations between Lans and his conspirators on a phone that Lans had been carrying at the time of his arrest to show that Lans had numerous conversations about cocaine smuggling prior to June 1, 2022. The Court enhanced Lans’s sentence based on his broader involvement in cocaine distribution prior to the pick-up on June 1, 2022.
“Our highly skilled special agents continue to rely on their experience and resources to thwart the efforts of career criminals who attempt to distribute their poison into our communities,” said HSI Orlando Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dave Pezzutti. “These sentences are a testament to HSI and our partner law enforcement agencies commitment to work around the clock to locate and remove these illicit drugs off the streets and out of our communities.”
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Orlando Police Department, the Sunrise Police Department, and the Golden Beach Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dana E. Hill.