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California man sentenced in federal court to probation for role in drug trafficking ring

Employment gaps, criminal past troubling, judge states by Dale Ellis | November 17, 2021 at 3:53 a.m.

The 22nd person named in a 31-person indictment as part of a major drug trafficking ring in Central Arkansas was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Brian Miller to serve eight months in federal prison for his part in the drug operation.

Aundre Lamar Jones, 34, of Los Angeles pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in the drug ring that was reputedly headed by Eric Baldwin, 32, and Nicholas Robinson Jr., 26, both of Little Rock. According to federal authorities, 23 of the defendants were from Central Arkansas, where the drugs were distributed, and eight were from Southern California, where the drugs originated.

To date, 14 people, including Jones, have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from eight months to 20 years for crimes ranging from withholding information of a crime to conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs.

Five defendants have been sentenced to terms of probation ranging from one year to five years, and charges were dismissed for three defendants.

Of the remaining eight defendants, seven have pleaded guilty to charges ranging from drug conspiracy to money laundering. Baldwin and Robinson pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges in September 2020. and along with co-defendants Justin Collins, 32, of Augusta and Windell Fountain, 53, of Victorville, Calif., are facing possible sentences of life in prison and fines of up to $10 million when they come up for sentencing.

One defendant, Khambria Allen, 25, of Little Rock, who was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering, has not entered a plea and is scheduled to go to trial next month.

Under U.S. sentencing guidelines, Miller said, the recommended sentence for Jones ranged from six to 12 months in prison, a fine of $2,000 to $20,000 and a term of supervised release from one to three years. Probation from one to five years was also listed as an option.

Jones' attorney, Darrell Brown Jr. of Little Rock, asked Miller to consider a sentence of probation, saying Jones' primary problems were caused by a longtime addiction to drugs.

"He does need assistance with the drug issue," Brown said, "which has caused him additional problems here."

Brown pointed out that Jones, at 34 years old, is the father of three boys and that he had accepted responsibility for his actions and was trying to make positive changes.

"He took part in in-patient rehab, he's taking part in out-patient rehab from prior, even before the indictment was filed in this case," Brown said. "He has a long history of use of promethazine and codeine ... he has admitted that to probation and he has gone and dealt with the intensive out-patient treatment since that time in California. ... He has complied in some ways to his acceptance of responsibility."

But Miller, considering Jones' circumstances, said he was troubled by additional charges Jones had racked up since his indictment, including a weapons charge.

"He's 34 years old, he lives with his mother, and I think he gets $1,500 in unemployment," Miller said. "The job he was working, for which he is receiving unemployment benefits, he didn't have it very long."

Miller pointed out that Jones had worked for 12 years for a temporary staffing company, which he said at best provided only sporadic employment.

"It doesn't, except for the time he had his own business, look like he's ever had long-term gainful employment," he said. "Living in Los Angeles with no gainful employment and making what it appears you've been making, it begs the question what do you do for income, and if you're not working and you don't have any money, you still have to live. It requires you to find other ways to make money. I don't know if that's true but I'm telling you what it looks like."

[RELATED: Click here for interactive map + full coverage of crime in Little Rock »]

Miller said based on Jones' criminal history, he had been close to some significant crimes, including a murder, for which he was not charged.

"What this smells like, or what it looks like, is that you're out here doing things you probably shouldn't be doing and this time you got caught," he said. "That's what it looks like."

As Miller talked, Jones began to scowl into the video camera.

"You can put that look on your face, I don't know what that look is," Miller said, adding that although he had received letters of support from some of Jones' friends, he had not received anything from his family.

"Here's what I worry about," he said. "If I give you probation, will that deter you from doing something else?"

Ultimately, in addition to eight months in custody, Miller sentenced Jones to a term of three years of supervised release.


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