Gang-afilliated Columbia meth dealer sentenced

4 months 4 hours 58 minutes ago Friday, March 23 2018 Mar 23, 2018 Friday, March 23, 2018 1:59:00 PM CDT March 23, 2018 in News
By: Edward Redler, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

JEFFERSON CITY – A Columbia man and three Compton, California, men were sentenced in federal court Thursday for roles in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine shipped to Columbia through the mail.

Ten defendants have been convicted and sentenced in this case.

Zachary Fennell, of Columbia, as well as Fernando Chavez, Dijon Brown and Favbion Holmes, all from California, each previously pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute meth.

Fennell also pleaded guilty to possessing meth with the intent to distribute and to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to court documents, Fennell was the leader of the conspiracy. He began receiving meth through the mail and distributing it in Columbia as early as December 2014. In October and November 2015, investigators seized four parcels intended for delivery to Fennell containing 3.55 kilograms of meth. Fennell is a former associate of his co-defendants from Compton.

Brown was convicted at trial of conspiracy to possess and distribute meth, and of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He provided armed protection to Fennell and distributed meth. Brown has been involved previously in crimes of violence and weapons offenses.

Chavez mailed packages containing large amounts of meth to Fennell to distribute, according to court documents. Chavez was a gang member and heavily involved in criminal activities associated with gang affiliation.

Holmes’ role in the conspiracy was to provide armed protection for Fennell. Holmes has had lifelong affiliation with a street gang.

In October 2015, according to court documents, Fennell was the victim of a home invasion robbery by rival drug dealers. His money, drugs and guns were stolen. He called Brown and Holmes, among others, to come to Columbia to help protect his drug enterprise. These men were present when investigators made a controlled delivery of a parcel containing meth to Fennell’s residence on Nov. 10, 2015.

Postal inspectors identified a suspicious parcel in November 2015, that was mailed from California to the residence of Fennell and a co-defendant. Federal agents recovered nearly 445 grams of meth, valued at more than $11,000, from the parcel inside a hollowed-out book.

Federal agents executed a sting operation on Nov. 10, 2015.

Shortly thereafter, agents assisted by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team attempted to search the home with a warrant. The four men tried to escape and a short search ensued. Holmes was found nearby, while Howard and Brown were caught hiding in a pool shed approximately a half-mile away. Fennell was apprehended in the front yard of the residence.

The brief manhunt resulted in the lockdown of a nearby elementary school. 

Law enforcement officers also located three loaded firearms inside the residence, meth in the freezer and in an upstairs bedroom dresser, and various documents that appeared to be ledgers for narcotics transactions.

Fennell, Chavez, Holmes, and Brown were sentenced in separate appearances. Fennell was sentenced to 23 years and four months in federal prison without parole. Chavez and Brown were each sentenced to 15 years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Holmes was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison without parole.

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