Mississippi man guilty of conspiring to smuggle drugs into prisons

Published 8:56 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2023

A Long Beach man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute FUB-AMB and 5F-MDMB-PICA, both of which are synthetic cannabinoids, into prisons in multiple states.

Johnson Tran, 46, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court.

According to court documents and information presented to the Court, in 2018, agents with the DEA received information from the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that drug laced letters and greeting cards were being sent to inmates in the Bureau of Prisons from the Southern District of Mississippi.  The drug laced letters and cards were intercepted at prisons in Illinois, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

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DEA and BOP officials were able to determine that inmates were ordering the drug laced letters and cards from Johnson Tran via prison email accounts and jail calls.   The inmates would typically order the drugs using coded language. The letters or greeting cards were laced with the synthetic cannabinoids, and many of them were sent from Gulfport, Mississippi.

Agents were also able to determine through the review of financial records that Tran would ultimately receive payment for the drugs that he sent into prison via U.S. Department of Treasury checks drawn from the inmate’s prison accounts and/or peer-to-peer money transfers from associates or family members of the inmates.  When Tran’s associates would receive funds on Tran’s behalf, Tran would give them a portion of the funds they received as payment for their services.

Tran was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 18, 2023, along with 19 co-defendants who are currently scheduled for trial in December of 2023.

Tran pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. He is scheduled to be sentenced on February 8, 2024. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

U.S. Attorney Todd W. Gee and Special Agent in Charge Brad Byerley of the Drug Enforcement Administration made the announcement.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating the case with assistance from the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Buckner.