Two Conway men pleaded guilty in federal court to drug conspiracy charges as part of a federal program to combat drug crime in the river city, officials said.
Marcus Dalton Hemingway, 36, and James Earl Spain II, whose age was not available, each pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to possessing cocaine and crack cocaine, which carries maximum prison sentences of 20 years and a $1 million fine, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The men will be sentenced at a later date.
The two men, along with three other men, were each indicted earlier this year by a federal grand jury in connection to the drug conspiracy.
U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles came to Conway in April announcing an initiative called C-STAND or Conway-Starting Toward a New Direction, where undercover agents made drug buys during a year-long operation before the arrests, he said.
In addition to the arrests, others involved in the drug conspiracies were offered an opportunity to go to school or get a job instead of prison time and are working to complete that program, officials said.
During the hearing for Hemingway and Spain on Tuesday, officials said that agents with the DEA, the 15th Judicial Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit and local police began in 2013 investigating cocaine and crack distribution in and around Conway.
Authorities said Hemingway headed this drug distribution organization—an organization that many associated with the moniker “LAB CITY,” according to the release.
Police said they made undercover drug purchases and eventually seized drugs and cash during the investigation. Hemingway was responsible for a conspiracy that included the distribution of multiple kilograms of cocaine as well as multiple quantities of crack cocaine in the Conway area since 2000.
Agents seized $50,000 cash and multiple guns, including an AK-47, from Hemingway’s home during his arrest in April, according to the release. Later that day, agents seized $106,000 in cash from a safe in a storage unit in the Myrtle Beach area.
During the investigation, police linked the other men and Spain told officers that he was holding a kilogram of cocaine for Hemingway, according to the release.
The C-STAND initiative is a program where local, state and federal authorities partner to eradicate open drug dealing in a multiple block area of Conway, according to the release. During the arrests on April 9, seven other people, who are considered by law enforcement to be lower-level targets, were not arrested that day.
That group instead received notice to attend a public “call in” meeting with the community and law enforcement held the week after the arrests at the Conway Recreation Center. The seven people attended the meeting, entered the C-STAND program, and are slated for graduation in late August.
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or on Twitter @tonyaroot.