Rapper Sonny Spoon was named Tuesday as one of the higher-ups in what authorities say was a “large-scale,” Macon-based drug ring that involved more than 30 people, most of them locals.
In 2010, after he was paroled from federal prison after serving six years on gun and drug charges, the 45-year-old rapper, whose real name is James E. Maxwell, was lauded by law enforcement officials for helping promote nonviolence.
On Tuesday, the very U.S. Attorney’s Office here that had then pressed for a reduction of Maxwell’s 13-year prison term -- which stemmed from a 2003 arrest -- said Maxwell has again run afoul of the law.
“At one time we had hoped that he was going to be a model former prisoner,” said Michael J. Moore, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
“We’re obviously disappointed, but nonetheless he chose to involve himself in this drug-distribution ring, and he’s going to face the music just like everybody else.”
The 20-page indictment, which names Maxwell and 30 others, says the drug-dealing operation funneled more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and 5 kilos of cocaine into the midstate from early 2012 until last fall.
The sting, which investigators nicknamed “Makon Money,” also resulted in firearms charges against some of the accused.
Some of the drugs were sent through the mail from Houston, Texas, and northern California, the indictment says, and “large amounts” of money were laundered.
If convicted, some of the accused could face life in prison and fines of up to $10 million.
Maxwell, who has a Lizella address, was part of a 2010 effort to turn area youths away from lives of crime. He participated in a local CrimeStoppers campaign called “Rhyme Against Crime,” encouraging young people to write their own rap songs.
Maxwell made a name for himself regionally after recording a song called “Dirty Bird,” which saluted the 1998 Atlanta Falcons and their run to the Super Bowl.
His wife died in 2009, and in an interview with The Telegraph the next year he spoke of making life better for others here.
“Before my wife had gotten sick, I already made a commitment,” he said. “I actually have a stake in this community. I have children, nieces and nephews.”
On Tuesday, Moore, the federal prosecutor said, “We always hope that through incarceration, and part of that being rehabilitation, that people can turn their lives around and not make the same mistakes again. But when they do, there will be consequences.”
Others from Macon indicted in the case on various charges are Bernard Engram, 49; Jerimee Parker, 37; Joseph Pierre Brown, 40; Michael Thompson, 42; Brioni Johnson, 34; Chancellor Lucear, 34; Alfred Brown, 32; James Faulkes, 36, Maurice Pearson, 36; Vontray Johnson, 31; William Story, 38; Kenna Middleton, 34; Shanna Lewis, 35; Aaron Hall, 33; Tyree Walker, 42; William Shamone Lewis, 36; and Jarvis Smith, 25.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.