Elderly Alabama felon gets 14-year sentence on drug, gun charges

Published 4:36 pm Thursday, July 20, 2023

A convicted felon has been sentenced on drug and gun charges, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona, U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector-in-Charge Scott D. Fix, Houston Division and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Marcus Watson.

U.S. District Court Judge Liles C. Burke sentenced Rayford Raymond Russell aka “Pete”, 74, of Rainsville, Alabama, to 168 months in prison. In February, Russell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, attempt to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, use of a phone to facilitate a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Russell was on federal supervised release when he committed these crimes.

“Removing drivers of violent crime from our communities remains a high priority for our office and our law enforcement partners,” U.S. Attorney Escalona said. “I am grateful for the hard work and cooperation that brought this repeat offender to justice.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to ensuring the U.S. Mails are not used as a tool to distribute narcotics to our communities,” said Scott Fix, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge of the Houston Division. “The sentence handed down today should serve as a reminder to other perpetrators engaged in this type of criminal behavior that we will work closely with our law enforcement partners to bring them to justice. We extend our appreciation to ALEA, ATF, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, and Huntsville Police Department for their assistance with this investigation.”

“The ATF worked collaboratively and tirelessly with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to disrupt the illegal possession of firearms, distribution of narcotics, and other criminal acts that were committed,” ATF SAC Watson said. “The ATF will remain in lockstep with our local, state, and federal partners in our continuing effort to combat violent crime, maintain public safety, and remove criminals who continuously show total disregard for the law.”

According to the plea agreement, during the week of August 10, 2022, law enforcement investigated a series of suspicious packages being mailed to a residence in Flat Rock, Alabama. The package was intercepted by the U.S. Postal Service and contained approximately 10 pounds of methamphetamine. On August 12, 2022, a controlled delivery of the package was made to the intended residence owned by Cindy Franklin.

Franklin was receiving packages for “Pete” and was compensated with money and marijuana for the packages she received. Between April 2021 and August 2022, approximately 350 pounds of methamphetamine and marijuana were mailed to Russell’s and Franklin’s residences. On August 12, 2022, Russell moved his firearms and ammunition to a residence in Dutton, Alabama. A search warrant was obtained for the residence. Law enforcement officers seized multiple firearms loaded with approximately 1,000 rounds of ammunition and other ammunition belonging to Russell.

On May 23, 2023, U.S. District Court Judge Liles C. Burke sentenced Cindy Land Franklin, 64, of Flat Rock, to 36 months in prison for use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug trafficking crime. Franklin pleaded guilty to the charge in February 2023.

In June 2010, Russell pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to being a felon in possession of a firearm, conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, distribution, and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and money laundering. In March 2011, Russell was sentenced to nine years in prison.