Green Bay. Watertown. Milwaukee. These and other Wisconsin cites are locations where federal and state agents have uncovered massive drug operations. Drug kingpins are not just stereotypes found in the movies.
The Kingpin Statute, also known as the Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE), is a federal law that defines a drug lord or kingpin. A kingpin is the leader of a criminal drug enterprise. They are someone in a supervisory role in long-term drug trafficking on a large scale. The kingpin has five or more people report up to them.
American Drug Lords
Notorious kingpins like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Pablo Escobar might leave some to think that drug lords are a product of Mexico, Colombia, and elsewhere in Central and South America. While that certainly is part of the equation, there are homegrown kingpins, too.
Some of the more infamous American drug lords include these characters:
- “Freeway” Ricky Ross: Ross was a drug kingpin in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s. Prosecutors estimated he exported several tons of cocaine nationally and made more than $600 million. He was charged to life in prison in 1996, but that sentence was later reduced to 20 years on a technicality.
- Nicky Barnes: Nicknamed “Mr. Untouchable,” Barnes was one of the biggest dealers in New York City in the 1970s. Originally sentenced to life in prison, he was released into witness protection after he testified in several cases.
- Jemeker Thompson: Some kingpins are “queenpins.” Thompson was arrested after her boyfriend ratted on her. She was at the top of the cocaine trade during the crack epidemic in 1980s Los Angeles. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison. After her release, she became an evangelical minister.
- Frank Lucas: Lucas distributed what was called “Blue Magic” heroin in Harlem in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He used military contacts overseas to establish a distribution network from Southeast Asia. Poppies were grown and processed into heroin overseas then flown to the U.S. on military planes. The Denzel Washington film “American Gangster” is based on Lucas. He was sentenced to 70 years in prison, but his sentence was reduced to 15 years after he gave the names of mafia accomplices and corrupt New York police officers.
Focus on International Drug Trade
The federal government does have laws that specifically address foreign drug cartels. The Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act is often referred to as the Kingpin Act. This law allows the U.S. to apply sanctions to significant foreign drug traffickers and their organizations. The President and the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury are given the authority to publicly name and target foreign kingpins.
The Act provides for criminal penalties for drug officers of up to $5 million and 30 years in prison. The entity can be fined up to $10 million. A civil penalty of up to $1 million per violation may also be assessed.
The countries with the most kingpins are as follows:
- Mexico (62)
- Colombia (32)
- Afghanistan (17)
- Honduras (11)
- Pakistan (8)
Challenges in Prosecuting a Kingpin
The kingpin is often insulated with many layers of drug trafficking lieutenants. The use of undercover agents to infiltrate the networks or inside snitches are common tactics to ferret out kingpin identities and connect them to the operation.
Drug trafficking organizations are complex with command-and-control structures that enable the kingpins to distribute illegal drugs without the individual kingpin handling the product. Prosecution of a drug kingpin is painstakingly audited by the meticulous notes, dates, times, contacts, and reports taken during the drug cartel network infiltration.
Aggressive Defense for Federal Drug Crimes
Drug kingpins are the only ones targeted by federal prosecutors. Possession, trafficking, and distribution charges can mean decades in prison and six-figure fines. If convicted, your life will never be the same.
Attorney Cherella knows how to play hardball in federal court. He scours the details of your case to find every opportunity to have your charges dropped or reduced. As a former prosecutor, he has inside knowledge on how to best approach each case.
If you are facing federal drug charges, contact us immediately. We’re available 24/7. Call (414) 882-8382 to schedule your free consultation.