Pubdate: Tue, 06 Aug 2002
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2002 The State
Author: Clif LeBlanc


Judge Denies Bail to 10 Defendants; 11 Still At Large

FBI agents - eavesdropping on a Columbia cocaine kingpin's cellphone
conversations - learned how the ring dealt drugs and heard him give
instructions about making crack.

The agents told a judge at a bail hearing Monday that they crushed one of
the state's largest drug rings using wiretaps, tips from a informant and a
Richland County detective's undercover work.

The investigation, in which 37 have been indicted, also revealed a second
Columbia drug lord with connections to the R&B group TLC, FBI agent Michael
Stansbury testified.

FBI agents got wiretaps last August and this spring to listen to Hubert
"Corey" Williams' calls, Stansbury said.

Agents taped as many as 20 drug transactions from some 30 phone calls,
Stansbury said.

Federal Magistrate Bristow Marchant denied bail to 10 defendants Monday.
Four others are in jail, 11 remain fugitives, six are free on bond, five
have not come up with bail and one turned himself in Monday.

Many of the accused had been on bail or probation for drug or firearms
charges, federal prosecutor Jane B. Taylor told the judge.

Accused killer David Keith Miles is among the fugitives. He was charged in a
homicide and a shooting, both in 1999, at the Fantasy Island Club on Two
Notch Road.

Corey Williams is free on bail, but the other ringleaders are fugitives,
Taylor said.

The key drug lord - John Kenneth Williams, 51 - is an uncle to Corey
Williams, 33, and his brother James, the prosecutor said.

James Williams, 31, is the boyfriend of Raina Lopes of Stone Mountain, Ga.,
Stansbury testified.

Lopes' sister, Lisa, had been a member the Atlanta-based group TLC. Lisa
Lopes died April 26 in a crash while on vacation in Honduras. Raina Lopes
has not been charged.

At one point in the investigation, James Williams told agents he would lead
them to his uncle and other ringleaders in exchange for a lesser sentence,
Stansbury said. Instead, he fled.

The ring used Atlanta as a transfer point for drugs that also went to drug
operations in Athens and Augusta, Ga., testimony and court records show.

The Columbia-based ring - considered one of the state's biggest in a decade
- - used various airstrips in the region to bring in as much as 100 kilos a
week over eight years from Mexico, Honduras and California, authorities

A kilo (2.2 pounds) has a street value in Columbia of about $26,000, federal
agents said. At its peak, the ring imported about $250,000 in cocaine

If not for the wiretaps, investigators would have known about only three
suspects, the prosecutor said. An undercover Richland County detective
penetrated the ring and arranged buys.

Corey Williams changed cellphones three times to try to minimize
eavesdropping, Stansbury testified.

He was taped explaining to other dealers how to cook water out of cocaine to
turn it into crack, the agent said. Crack is a more potent form of cocaine.

The Columbia cocaine operation dates to 1992, but John Williams took it over
in 1994, the agent testified.

Among those charged is former Columbia attorney William Edwards. He was
disbarred in 1994 by the state Supreme Court because of complaints that
Edwards misused settlement money, allowed a client to lie on the stand and
missed court hearings.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Josh