The last of five defendants in a two-state drug trafficking organization awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to felony charges in federal Court.
Jaqueline Somesso, 55, of Savannah, faces a statutory sentence of up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to an Information charging her with Misprision of a Felony and one count of Bank Fraud, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The guilty plea acknowledges Somesso is responsible for using fake bank statements to illegally receive COVID-19 relief funding of nearly $600,000. After completion of any prison term, Somesso will be required to serve up to three years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
“The exceptional work of our law enforcement partners identified and dismantled this operation that poured illegal drugs into our communities while also ripping off the American taxpayer,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “The five guilty pleas in this case stand testament to the strength of the prosecution painstakingly built through collaboration with our office.”
The guilty pleas in USA v. Kinchen, et al., are the result of “Operation All Eyes On Me,” an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation that identified traffickers distributing cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in middle and south Georgia and in Florida. The 15-count indictment, unsealed in August 2022, named five defendants identified through a series of controlled purchases, phone surveillance and searches of multiple properties conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and agents from the Savannah-Chatham Counter Narcotics Team.
In addition to Somesso, the defendants include:
- Dennis Rodriguez Kinchen, 44, of Dublin, Ga., awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in December 2022 to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, 500 Grams or More of Cocaine, and an Amount of Methamphetamine, Heroin, and Marijuana; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. Kinchen, identified as a source of the drugs distributed through the conspiracy, faces a statutory sentence of up to 40 years in prison. As part of his guilty plea, he agreed to forfeit an Atlanta condominium purchased with proceeds received through the conspiracy, which also included wire fraud in misuse of more than $300,000 in Small Business Administration COVID Economic Injury Disaster Fund loans comingled with illicit proceeds of drug trafficking. Kinchen was identified as the boyfriend of Somesso, who admitted she knew that he kept illegal firearms and drugs at her residence.
- Sherman Levon Scott, 54, of Pooler Ga., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in March 2023 to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, and Marijuana. The investigation identified Scott as a distributor in the drug trafficking conspiracy, and a Jan. 29, 2022 law enforcement search of his residence yielded a kilo of cocaine, 3 pounds of marijuana, crack cocaine, and cash. Scott’s plea subjects him to a statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
- Angel Amaral, 56, of Hollywood, Fla., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in January 2023 to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, Cocaine. Identified during the investigation as a source of cocaine for the drug trafficking conspiracy in Florida, Amaral faces a statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
- Tony Heldore, 52, of Richmond Hill, Ga., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in March 2023 to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, Cocaine and Marijuana. Identified as a marijuana supplier to the conspiracy, Heldore faces a statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Heldore was an employee of Somesso, working at Karma Entertainment and Lux Gentlemen’s Club in Hardeeville, S.C.
The government is seeking forfeiture of nearly $900,000 in funds from the conspiracy. Sentencings for Scott and Heldore are scheduled for Aug. 10, 2023, in U.S. District Court in Savannah before U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker. Sentencings for the other defendants will be scheduled after completion of pre-sentence investigations by U.S. Probation Services.
“Operation ‘All Eyes On Me’ was a tremendous success as it brought down a once-thriving drug trafficking organization,” said Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “This criminal organization has reached its final chapter, and its members face well-deserved time in prison.”
The case was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.
Operation All Eyes On Me was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Savannah District Office and the Savannah-Chatham Counter Narcotics Team, with assistance from the DEA Miami Field Division, the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Secret Service, and prosecuted for the United States of America by Southern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorney and OCDETF Coordinator Marcela C. Mateo.