By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
A man accused of dealing large quantities of cocaine in Madison County and laundering money through his Richmond clothing store has entered a plea agreement just days before his trial in federal court.
Jakolbe “Kolbe Cheese” Chenault agreed Friday to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, according to federal court documents. Chenault and Ellington were scheduled to stand trial Monday in U.S. District Court in Lexington.
U.S. District Attorney Robert Duncan Jr. indicated that he would be seeking a prison sentence of 30 years in the case, the plea agreement stated. Chenault also was classified as a career criminal based his numerous prior felony convictions.
It took years for local law enforcement officers to built their case against Chenault and members of his drug ring, but it led to the arrest of nearly a dozen people and also to the bodies of a couple that had been missing for nearly two years.
LeBruce Ellington, who was a part of Chenault’s drug ring according to the indictment, also entered into a plea agreement Friday but those documents were sealed. He will not be sentenced until June 3, 2013.
Duncan did not return phone calls Tuesday to answer questions about the plea agreements.
Investigation and arrests
On Oct. 21, 2011, Richmond police arrested Jermaine Carter after witnesses told police he had fired shots at the Super 8 motel on North Keeneland Drive. His wife, Sarah Carter, and another woman were in the room at which he was allegedly firing. Sarah Carter told police she recently had filed for an emergency protective order against her husband, according to the federal complaint from Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives Agent Russel R. King.
The Drug Enforcement Agency already had video evidence of Carter selling cocaine on more than one occasion, the complaint stated. After his arrest in the hotel shooting, Carter waived his Miranda rights and told police he had been dealing cocaine for Chenault since May 2009, according to the complaint.
Carter, and later Ellington, also told police that Chenault had paid $20,000 to have Charles “Chew” Walker killed because he believed Walker had stolen money from him, according to a search warrant affidavit in the homicide case.
Information given by Carter and Ellington led police to Daniel Keene, who confessed that he and another man, Matthew Denholm, killed Walker for money and also his girlfriend, Sonsaray “Sonsi” Warford, the affidavit stated. Keene led police in late March to the couple’s bodies, which had been buried off Tates Creek Road for almost two years.
Keene and Denholm have both been charged with murder in the case. Commonwealth’s Attorney David Smith said the homicides were still under investigation.
Indictments and plea agreements
At the time of Carter’s confession, Chenault was in the Shelby County Detention Center serving a sentence for a wanton endangerment conviction. Carter told police Chenault’s girlfriend, Christina Thieleman, was running Chenault’s drug business from a Louisville home.
The next day, Oct. 22, police obtained a search warrant for Thieleman’s home and found 3.5 kilograms of cocaine, more than $98,000 in cash and firearms, according to the federal complaint.
In addition to Carter, Chenault and Thieleman, five more people were arrested in connection with the drug ring. They were Bryan “Murder” L. Campbell, Shaquille “Quille” K. Williams, Franklin “Nitty” M. Floyd, Nikita “Youngster” M. Jenkins and James Phelps. Ellington was later added to the indictment.
All people named in the drug-trafficking ring, except for Campbell, have entered plea agreements in federal court and were given sentences ranging from 12 months to 10 years.
Chenault’s plea agreement stated that he was supplied with cocaine by Ruben “Big Shitty” A. Catching, who also was his business partner at JaRu’s New Fashions in Richmond. Although clothing and other items were sold at the store, “Chenault admits that one purpose of the store was to launder the proceeds of his and Catching’s drug trafficking activity,” the agreement stated.
Chenault also admitted to laundering drug money through payments his girlfriend made on a house at 121 Oakland Avenue in Richmond.
Catching pleaded guilty Aug. 8 in federal court to conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 19.
Catching’s brother, Demetrius Catching, also was charged after police searched his Garrard County home last year and found drugs, according to court documents. Demetrius Catching pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base (crack cocaine), and he will be sentenced Nov. 22, court documents show.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6694.
Clarification (published in Oct. 20 print edition on Page A2):
In a front-page story story Oct. 17 titled “Leader of drug ring enters guilty plea in federal court,” the order of who entered a plea deal and cooperated with federal authorities was unclear. Ruben “Big Shitty” A. Catching pleaded guilty Aug. 8 in federal court and admitted he supplied Jakolbe “Kolbe Cheese” Chenault with large amounts of cocaine, according to the plea agreement document. Chenault did not entered into his plea agreement until Oct. 12, and in that document he confirmed Catching was his major supplier of cocaine.