The case of a Detroit man charged with selling heroin in Richmond will be heard by a Madison grand jury.

Madison District Judge Brandy O. Brown referred the case of Lionel T. “Cheddar” Varnes, 19, for further consideration after a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Varnes was arrested Nov. 21 and charged with two counts of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance connected to alleged heroin transactions in September and October.

Varnes “fronted” a police informant with one gram of heroin on Sept. 30, Richmond Police Det. Ben Spaulding testified Wednesday.

On Oct. 10, police arranged for the informant to meet again with Varnes, giving him $180 — $90 for the herion he previously received and $90 for another gram, Spaulding said.

The transaction was documented by video and audio, he said.

Varnes, of Detroit, “...is among a group of black males coming from Michigan. There are 10 to 15 of them doing this,” Spaulding said.

The traffickers are setting up “buy spots” inside local motels, he said.

Varnes’ attorney, Valetta Browne, said police needed more evidence to establish that the informant bought the drugs from Varnes.

“There isn’t anything establishing it was Lionel Varnes,” she said. “There’s nothing independent that would say he did this.”

Browne admitted Varnes was a thin, black male from Michigan, but that it was not enough evidence to convict him.

The judge ruled, however, that sufficient evidence had been presented for a grand jury to hear the case.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 624-6608.

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