A federal judge sentenced a Loganville man to 20 years in prison on drug charges.
Walker Christian Forrester, 25, pleaded guilty late last year to a charge of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute, and to distribute controlled substances.
Specifically, prosecutors alleged Forrester was involved in the trafficking of carfentanil, alprazolam and marijuana.
Forrester illegally ran an industrial-scale pill-manufacturing operation, U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine in Augusta said.
“The criminals in this drug trafficking conspiracy distributed massive amounts of dangerous illegal drugs, including deadly synthetic opioids, on the streets of Georgia and beyond through the dark web,” Christine said.
“Our federal, state and local law enforcement agencies did outstanding work in investigating and shutting down these manufacturers of misery and bringing them to justice.”
Three other people in the case have been sentenced.
Kolbie Hadden Watters, 23, of Augusta and formerly of Walton County, got a life sentence plus 10 years for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Jonathan Britt Lester, 23, of Loganville, was sentenced to 17 1/2 years for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances.
Morgan McKenzie Slaton, 23, of Hoschton, was sentenced to three years of probation for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, followed by years of supervised release.
Armand Sananda Saedi, 28, of Atlanta, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute controlled substances.
Prosecutors said the conspiracy dated to 2016, with the co-defendants importing large amounts of drugs they bought with cryptocurrency on the darknet. They used industrial-grade machinery to make pills and sold them on the darknet and throughout Georgia.
At their peak, the operation made up to 200,000 pills per month, netting up to $18,000 a month in profits.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration learned of Forrester late in the summer of 2017 after he bought an industrial-grade pill press. Two months later, Forrester, Watters and a juvenile suspect were arrested on state charges in Harlem, Georgia, after a traffic stop.
Harlem police officers found more than 5,200 counterfeit Xanax pills, marijuana and a sawed-off shotgun.
Watters and Lester face charges of felony murder and aggravated assault in the death of 25-year-old Chase David Loffler, whose body was found buried in the backyard of Lester’s Loganville home in April 2018.
Watters and Lester are accused of beating and suffocating Loffler and burying him in a shallow grave. Prosecutors said Loffler was a suspected co-conspirator.
Forrester was out of the conspiracy by the time of Loffler’s death, his family has said.
“Drug trafficking knows no boundaries and is driven by greed and power,” Robert J. Murphy, special agent in charge of the DEA Atlanta Division, said. “These guilty pleas should serve as a reminder to drug traffickers that DEA and its law enforcement partners will expend the necessary resources to dismantle, disrupt and destroy those who distribute poison throughout our communities.”
Chris Hacker, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Atlanta, said the conspiracy “compounded an epidemic that is killing our citizens.”
“These criminals’ days of selling poison, destroying lives and spreading violence are over,” acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer of Homeland Security Investigations in Georgia and Alabama said.
Forrester faced the possibility of a life sentence from U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall.
Forrester must serve five years of supervised release after he completes his prison term, and there is no parole in the federal system.