GULFPORT -- A Biloxi man who wanted to build houses for a living but instead dealt crack cocaine is headed to prison for six years.
Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. also ordered Willie Eugene Russell, 39, to pay a $5,000 fine and serve three years under post-release supervision. Russell had pleaded guilty in January to a federal charge of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.
Before he entered his plea, Russell told the judge he's had a "rough life." He left school in the 10th grade and didn't obtain a GED until he went to prison for the first time on another drug charge. After his release, he said, earned a degree from Virginia College.
DEA agents saw him driving in Biloxi as they were headed to his home with a search warrant. During a car chase, agents saw him throwing something out of his car window, but it blew back in -- and field tested positive as 2 grams of crack.
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A confidential informant had called him about buying 4 ounces of crack in the hours leading up to Russell's arrest. The informant, wired with a recording device, went to Russell's home and paid $4,800 for 151 grams of crack, the prosecutor said.
Shortly after the sale, DEA agents spotted Russell leaving his home and the car chase followed.
At his home, agents recovered $6,000, including the $4,800 the informant had paid. Local authorities initially arrested Russell on a state charge of possession with intent to distribute crack.
He was later indicted on the federal charge.
The federal charge accused him of conspiring to sell more than 5 kilos of crack from about June 2012 until his June 23 indictment.
At the time of his April arrest, Russell was already on house arrest on another drug conviction.
In exchange for his plea in the federal case, the government dismissed a conspiracy charge.
Several of his family members spoke on his behalf prior to sentencing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shundral Cole prosecuted the case.