Prison gang leader sentenced to life for drug, money laundering operation

Published 3:12 pm Friday, August 12, 2022

A prison gang leader who ran a massive drug and money laundering operation was sentenced to life in prison this week and ordered to forfeit more than $1.2 million.
Charles Elsea Jr., 44, a longtime inmate of the Tennessee Department of Corrections, was tried in March and convicted of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine; conspiracy to distribute marijuana; and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Elsea was sentenced Aug. 8 by Judge Ronnie Greer in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville.
During the sentencing, Greer found that Elsea was responsible for distributing more than 56.8 kilograms of methamphetamine. Elsea was ordered to forfeit $1,263,490, which represented the illegal proceeds from distributing methamphetamine and money laundering.
“According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Elsea was serving a prison sentence for first-degree murder for a 1996 homicide in Hamilton County … when he rose through the ranks to become the State President of the Brotherhood Forever, a Tennessee-based prison gang,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release.
“Elsea led the drug trafficking organization from behind prison walls using smuggled cellphones to conduct his business on the outside. Elsea orchestrated multi-kilo methamphetamine deals that involved methamphetamine being transported from California and Arizona to Tennessee. Elsea and his coconspirators used the drug proceeds from the methamphetamine sales to create marijuana grow houses in and out of Tennessee,” the release states.
Officials said Elsea was also involved in starting two marijuana grow operations during the pendency of this case, utilizing the jail’s video system to speak to coconspirators about the cultivation of marijuana.
The case was the result of a five-year investigation that began in the spring of 2017 by the Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations (“DHS-HSI”), the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), and the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”). Other agencies involved with the investigation included the Tennessee Department of Correction Office of Investigations and Conduct; the Elizabethton and Carter County Joint Drug Task Force; the Huron Undercover Narcotic Team with the Michigan State Police; the Arkansas Highway Patrol; the Missouri Western Interdiction Task Force with the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department; and the California Visalia Police Department. This investigation was led by HSI Special Agent John Bulla.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meghan L. Gomez and J. Christian Lampe represented the United States at sentencing.

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