By Johnny Jackson
Marlon Burton, 38, of McDonough, was sentenced Friday, by United States District Judge Thomas W. Thrash, to serve 30 years in federal prison, on charges of conspiring to distribute drugs.
"Mr. Burton ran a sophisticated drug-trafficking organization for over 10 years while appearing to operate a legitimate contracting business in Atlanta," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates, in a written statement.
"In reality, he was purchasing hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and other drugs from a Mexican drug cartel, and then distributing the drugs to a variety of street-level dealers working for his organization."
Burton and eight other individuals were indicted in December 2009, on drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges relating to the drug conspiracy, according to Patrick Crosby, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia.
Burton's case, investigated by special agents of the FBI, was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. The FBI in Atlanta began a year-long investigation of Burton and his drug-trafficking organization in November 2008, Crosby said.
The investigation revealed that Burton led a large drug-distribution group, which operated in Atlanta and, with those working for him, he distributed wholesale quantities of cocaine, heroin and marijuana, according to authorities.
"The FBI, as part of the multi-agency Wilhelm Strike Force, is pleased to have this career offender off the streets," said Brian D. Lamkin, Atlanta FBI special agent in charge. "Burton had integrated himself into an international drug cartel, and it was his role to bring that cartel's interests and product to the Atlanta area and beyond."
From November 2008 to December 2009, the FBI monitored telephones carried by the drug cartel's suspected members, including Burton, Crosby said.
Burton was intercepted on FBI wiretaps directing the distribution of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and thousands of pounds of marijuana in the Atlanta area. Federal investigators said Burton had been working with members of a Mexican drug-trafficking cartel to obtain the drugs.
Investigators said it was not uncommon for Burton to fly to Mexico, himself, to negotiate, with cartel members, the price and quantity of drugs to be shipped to Atlanta. In July 2009, after intercepting coded talk from Burton concerning a load of drugs, law enforcement agents stopped a tractor trailer in McDonough, carrying 40 kilograms of cocaine destined for Burton.
Burton generated millions of dollars in drug proceeds from the sale of the narcotics, according to investigators. They said Burton funneled drug money through his construction company and the other businesses he owned, in order to launder profits from his drug dealing, which accounted for an estimated $1.5 million in drug proceeds.
Burton was convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering on May 26, 2010, after entering a guilty plea with the federal district court. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. The court also ordered the forfeiture of his vehicles and house in Clayton County.
Officials with the United States Attorney's Office said the Bureau of Prisons will soon give a date and place for Burton to report, and serve out his prison sentence.
Fellow conspirators have also received sentences, or are awaiting sentencing, according to federal officials. Prinston Carter was sentenced to four years in prison on May 18, 2010, for his role in the drug conspiracy. Decarlo Tatum was sentenced to 11 years, three months imprisonment, on July 28, 2010. Rufino Pruneda received a nine-year prison sentence, on Aug. 18, 2010. Innecencio Ochoa, David Ruiz, and Otoniel Herrera await sentencing in the case, but Marco Duron remains a fugitive, according to authorities.