Three Defendants Sentenced on Drug and Firearms Charges
Chief United States District Judge S. Maurice Hicks, Jr. sentenced two of the defendants as follows:
Desmond Francois, 32, of Houston, Texas, was sentenced to 120 months in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release, for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. On May 11, 2017, officers with the Lafayette Police Department initiated a bus interdiction at the Greyhound Bus Station located in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana. Law enforcement officers boarded the bus and identified themselves and told the passengers the purpose of their stop. While searching the bus, officers observed that on row 6, there were two black backpacks on the floor, a silver purse, and a gray hoodie and phone on the seat. Directly above that seat was a red and black plaid bag.
When all passengers re-boarded the bus and returned to their seats, row 6 remained empty. Officers asked all passengers if the items belong to anyone present and none claimed them. However, one of the passengers told the officer that he saw the male and female from row 6 run when they saw law enforcement boarding the bus. The male was later identified as Francois. Inside the backpack from row 6 was approximately ten kilograms of cocaine and a Greyhound bus ticket for passenger Desmond Francois. Further investigation confirmed that Francois was associated with a drug trafficking organization in the Houston area that has a history of drug trafficking in Louisiana.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Lafayette Police Department and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamilla A. Bynog.
Lionel Hill, Jr., 41, of Port Arthur, Texas, was sentenced to 60 months in prison, followed by 4 years of supervised release, on drug trafficking charges. Officers with the New Iberia Police Department stopped a vehicle being driven by Hill on May 6, 2021 for a traffic violation. Hill consented to a search of his person and officers located 50.6 grams of a substance containing fentanyl and 28.7 grams of a substance containing methamphetamine.
Hill admitted to officers that he possessed the narcotics with the intent to distribute them. Lab reports later confirmed that the substance contained a detectable amount of fentanyl. On October 21, 2021, Hill pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute over 40 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl] propanamide, a Schedule II narcotic controlled substance.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the New Iberia Police Department and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Vermaelen.
United States District Judge David C. Joseph sentenced Jacob Wilson Zirlott, 39, of Franklin, Louisiana, to 70 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. On June 19, 2017, officers with the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on Zirlott’s residence.
During their search, deputies located an AR-15 firearm in the living room, along with several magazines located next to the firearm and drug paraphernalia. Zirlott admitted that the gun belonged to him even though he was a convicted felon and knew he was prohibited from possessing any firearm. Zirlott has prior felony convictions for robbery in Florida (1999) and aggravated second degree battery in Louisiana (2010).
The case was investigated by the Homeland Security Investigations-U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John W. Nickel.