BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Ronnie Music Jr., a Waycross, Georgia man who sank part of $3 million in lottery winnings into methamphetamine trafficking, will spend the next 21 years in prison on drug conspiracy and firearms charges.
Last July, the 46-year-old Music admitted his involvement in multi-state drug trafficking, including a ring being run from a Georgia prison that he fronted with lottery winnings. He also pleaded guilty to being a convicted felon in possession of firearms.
(See Lottery winner invested $3M in crystal meth ring, Lottery Post, July 26, 2016.)
Music won $3 million in 2015 on a scratch-off ticket in the Georgia Lottery.
"You got a windfall that few in this world ever get," Chief U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said before sentencing Music. "Nobody has ever blown lottery winnings in a more dangerous and destructive way than you did."
The government agreed to ask Wood to impose a sentence lighter than that called for under federal advisory guidelines. The guidelines called for a sentence of 27 years to 33 years and nine months.
Music provided information agents used against Daniel Alo, 46, who was running a methamphetamine ring from Calhoun State Prison where he was serving a life sentence for murder.
During a hearing in federal court in Waycross, the government said conspirators on the outside used drones to drop cellphones into the prison yard and that those inside used them to direct drug trafficking. They used GreenDot financial cards to transfer money and pay suppliers and dealers.
Alo pleaded guilty before Wood Jan. 22 and is awaiting sentencing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Gilluly Jr. said a corruption investigation at Calhoun State Prison was already under way before Music made his first statement to federal agents.
"Alo was done," Gilluly said. "[Music] corroborated what we already knew."
Alo was one of 15 people arrested, some in the Waycross area, for distributing methamphetamine. All have since pleaded guilty and Music's cooperation likely figured into those pleas and a quick wrap-up of the case, Gilluly said.
"His willingness to testify may have resulted in others jumping on board and being willing to testify," he told Wood.
Music's lawyer, Ronald Harrison of Brunswick, tried to downplay Music's participation.
"I think at worst, he's a wholesaler," Harrison told Wood in asking her to trim years off his sentence.
"He came in early. He was thorough. He was truthful," Harrison said. "It was a risk to him. It was a risk to his family."
Harrison said he was also amazed Music and his associates, whom he called "The Apple Dumpling Gang," ever reached the level they did.
"You wouldn't take them to be methamphetamine dealers and users," he said. "They're just regular guys."
He also said Music used alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and, eventually, methamphetamine to deal with tragedy in his life.
Gilluly countered that Music was very much a large-scale dealer "who brought pounds and pounds" of meth into the community.
"It's addictive. It destroys families. It destroys communities," he said.
He also said Music had ties to drug cartels, the Bloods gang and white supremacists.
"That is not a rag-tag gang of misfits," Gilluly said. "He's not just a drug dealer. He's dangerous."
Although Harrison said Music came in early, court documents show it wasn't at the first opportunity.
Records show Music seemed oblivious to any chances he would be arrested even as he watched agents take down two of his co-conspirators.
Music was arrested in October 2014 with 4 pounds of meth, $22,000 in cash, $5,000 of which an informer handed over earlier for a pound of meth, records show.
That arrest came a month after some of his co-conspirators were caught trying to sell 11 pounds of methamphetamine that Music supplied, the government has said.
On parole from a previous conviction, Music supplied more than 10 pounds of crystallized meth to Jessie Case for redistribution, the government said.
On Sept. 1, 2015, local and federal agents arrested Case for attempting to sell that meth in Brunswick, but the arrest didn't stop Music.
"Mr. Music observed the transaction and the bust, but did not stop his involvement in the drug business," the government said in a court document.
While free on bond, he was a fugitive from cases in Georgia and Tennessee, the government said. He was tracked to a Red Roof Inn in Tennessee and arrested with 14.4 grams of meth and some marijuana.
Brought back to Brunswick, Music confessed and talked to agents for hours.
Gilluly acknowledged that Music, while talking with an agent on the phone, agreed to have his house searched then directed the searchers to hidden money and 11 guns, including an illegal shotgun and an assault rifle and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Gilluly also noted Music has a 25-year criminal history, some of it extremely violent, and that he pleaded guilty only to the 10 to 11 pounds of meth "seized in our neighborhood," and not all his trips to other states.
For his part, Music took responsibility for his actions and apologized to the court and his family.
Wood ordered Music to pay a $25,000 fine and to serve five years on probation in addition to the vehicles and other cash he already forfeited to the government.
Wood also showed she knows something about children's movies.
"'The Apple Dumpling Gang' was children digging for gold," she said of the Disney film.