By Joe Johnson
A drug dealer who Athens-Clarke County policer learned was selling drugs from prison this week pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine from prison, according to Peter D. Leary, acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
Frankie Baza, 33, of Flowery Branch, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine before U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal in U.S. District Court in Athens, Leary said in a media release.
Baza faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison to be followed by four years of supervised release and a $1,000,000 fine. A sentencing date is scheduled for May 6, 2021.
According to Leary, Athens-Clarke County officers in January 2019 developed a cooperating source who explained that Baza was their source of meth since 2018. Baza was an inmate in the Georgia Department of Corrections who used contraband cell phones to connect customers with his associates to distribute methamphetamine, Leary said.
The source subsequently placed a call to Baza and ordered a large amount of methamphetamine, Leary said, and Baza directed the source to a Homewood Suites in metro Atlanta to meet Baza’s associate, who would conduct the transaction.
Under surveillance, agents observed the associate walk to the parking lot carrying a bag to meet the source as planned, Leary said, at which time the associate was taken into custody and a search of the motel room resulted in the seizure of a large amount of methamphetamine, more than two ounces of heroin, a cellphone and a shotgun. The associate admitted to renting the room and distributing the methamphetamine and heroin, according to Leary, and Baza admitted that he conspired to direct the distribution of one kilogram of a methamphetamine mixture.
“Prisoners using contraband cell phones to direct criminal activities from behind bars will face severe consequences in the federal system, where there is no parole,” Leary said. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to identify and bring to justice those inmates who brazenly disregard the law, putting both our communities and the prison community where they are housed in danger.”
Robert J. Murphy, special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta office, said, “Keeping criminals like this drug trafficker behind bars is not only an accomplishment for law enforcement, but a victory for the community.
“Mr. Baza can no longer push dangerous drugs while on the streets or while serving time in prison,” Murphy said. “This guilty plea was possible because of unified law enforcement cooperation.”
The case was investigated by the DEA and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Tamara Jarrett is prosecuting the case for the Government.