GULFPORT -- A former Marine and Army National Guard member once praised for his service in Afghanistan and Iraq is going to prison for five years. He was convicted of heading up a drug-trafficking organization whose buyers included military members.
David Cooper, 44, of Gulfport, apologized for his actions but also questioned the "hard evidence" in the case prior to sentencing. He said he's not a "bad person," just someone "trying to get out of debt."
Cooper said he felt bad about how his actions have affected his wife and child. Regina Cooper, 48, was sentenced Monday to five years' probation, with eight months to serve under house arrest, for knowing about her husband's illegal activity but failing to report it.
David Cooper served in the military for 16 years, and fought on the front lines in five tours of duty.
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Judge Sul Ozerden noted Cooper was still questioning the evidence and not taking full responsibility for his crimes. The judge pointed to some of the thousands of text messages between Cooper and his customers and sellers prior to sentencing him.
In one text, he explains how to make good money in the drug business.
"You hook them and you will make a killing," he wrote. "I will show you how."
In another, he tells a man talking about buying and selling drugs to "Go ahead and make us some money." One correspondent questions whether to sell the drugs to someone who doesn't have a lot of money. Cooper responds, "It's fine to nickel and dime them."
In addition to prison, Ozerden ordered three years of supervised release and fined Cooper $10,000 on a charge of possession with intent to distribute the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam, the generic for Xanax.
A federal grand jury had indicted David and Regina Cooper on charges of conspiracy to distribute meth, Ecstasy, alprazolam and synthetic drugs similar to Spice or bath salts. In exchange for the pleas, the government dismissed the remaining charges.
Authorities arrested the couple in May 2014 after authorities in New York intercepted a package of drugs from India addressed to David Cooper. Packages of drugs also went to the Gulfport post office from other countries.
At the couple's home, authorities found a video showing David Cooper using a pill press to manufacture drugs. A small child is seen in the video and David Cooper is heard complaining about his pill press not working properly.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Meynardie is prosecuting the case.