Four sentenced on drug, money laundering charges

Staff Reports

ATLANTA - Four Buford residents Friday were sentenced on federal drug and money laundering charges.

Gail Denise Hutchinson, 65, Ronald Monroe Lott, 49, Stacy Deon Cunningham, 36 and Valery Aleta Patillo, 40 were sentenced by United States District Judge J. Owen Forrester.

Hutchinson was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 10 years probation, and was ordered to forfeit her interest in the property located at 302 Roberts St., Buford.

Lott was sentenced to 20 years in prison, 5 years probation, and was also ordered to forfeit his interest in the property.

Cunningham was sentenced to 12 years, 4 months in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release.

On May 20, 2003, a federal grand jury issued an 11-count indictment charging Hutchinson, Lott, Cunningham and Robert Haywood Johnson with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and distribution of crack cocaine. Hutchinson and Lott were also charged with conspiring to launder money, and Lott was also charged with operating a crack house.

At the 10-day jury trial, evidence showed that beginning at least by 1995, and continuing until February of 2003, the three pooled their money and purchased a kilogram of cocaine, which they converted into crack cocaine. Lott would handle the cooking of crack cocaine, and often used Hutchinson's house, located at 140 Forest Street, in Buford, for that purpose.

Once the crack was cooked and separated into ounce amounts for distribution, Johnson, and later Patillo, stored the crack cocaine for the organization. They also delivered the drugs to Lott and Cunningham when the duo needed the drugs for distribution to customers. A majority of these drug transactions occurred at the Roberts Street house.

Hutchinson handled the financial aspects of the operation by safeguarding and accounting for the proceeds of the drug distribution. The evidence at trial showed that Hutchinson opened several bank accounts and used a hair salon business to launder the proceeds.

Patillo, who had a limited role in the conspiracy, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging her with distributing crack cocaine.

Johnson and Patillo are scheduled to be sentenced at a later date.

This investigation, named "Operation Buford Clean Up," resulted in the arrest and conviction of several other individuals, including Jimmy Vega, 26, and Rufus Millsap, 36, both of Buford.