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VOL. 127 | NO. 189 | Thursday, September 27, 2012

Drug Kingpin Petties Moved to New York

By Bill Dries

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Memphis drug kingpin Craig Petties has been moved from the federal prison in Atlanta to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City.

Petties’ move was confirmed on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website following a series of sealed filings in Memphis federal court earlier this month.

Prosecutors filed the sealed ex parte motion seeking to move Petties. It was granted Sept. 11 by U.S. District Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays without the order ever revealing the reason for the move.

Meanwhile, Petties’ sentencing hearing scheduled for Sept. 21 was moved to Nov. 19 just days before the hearing was to take place. Petties pleaded guilty in 2009 to drug conspiracy, racketeering and murder for hire charges. But the guilty plea wasn’t unsealed and revealed in the public case file for another year in a case that has been defined by numerous sealed pleadings and motions.

Prosecutors and some defense attorneys in the largest drug case ever brought into Memphis federal court have said the reason for the secrecy is the violence of the drug organization that Petties ran starting in 1995 through his escape to Mexico in 2002 to avoid prosecution here to his capture in Mexico in January 2008.

Memphis drug kingpin Craig Petties has been moved from a federal prison in Atlanta to a correctional center in New York City. His sentencing hearing also has been moved to Nov. 19.

Only two of Petties’ codefendants went to trial. Martin Lewis and Clinton Lewis were convicted of murder for hire, drug conspiracy and racketeering charges earlier this year.

They and other codefendants are also tentatively on Mays’ court calendar in November for sentencing hearings.

The trial of the Lewises, under elaborate security precautions, featured testimony for the government by numerous other members of the organization who detailed six murders of rival drug dealers or members of the group who were suspected of cooperating with authorities.

They also testified in detail about how Petties ran the organization that made millions of dollars in less than a week’s time selling cocaine in a multi-state area and Petties’ direct ties to a branch of the Sinaloa Mexico drug cartel. The cartel is frequently described by federal law enforcement officials as the most violent of the country’s drug organizations.

Testimony indicated Petties worked with a part of the cartel headed by the Beltran-Leyva family. The codefendants testified that Petties and some of them met and talked in Mexico with Edgar Valdez-Villareal, second in command of the Beltran-Leyva faction who was known as “LaBarbie.”

The jury also heard how Petties ordered the murders from Mexico.

Petties did not testify at the trial. His last known appearance in open court was in December 2010 when he pleaded guilty to a contraband charge for having a shank hidden in a mattress in his prison cell at the Memphis Federal Correctional Institution. Petties was moved temporarily from the Memphis facility to a federal prison in Tallahassee, Fla., after the weapon was discovered.

The New York prison, in lower Manhattan, where Petties arrived this month, is described on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website as “an administrative facility housing male and female pre-trial and holdover inmates.”

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