Prison Drug-dealing Charge Scuttles Plea Deal for Memphis Underling of International Drug Kingpin Craig Petties
As reported by Beth Warren here in the Commercial Appeal:
Collierville resident Vacha Vaughn escaped two murder plots against him by one of the largest and most deadly cocaine trafficking rings in Tennessee history.
His closest call was on July, 26, 2004, when two drug thieves posing as police signaled him to pull over in his Chevrolet Avalanche. When Vaughn got out of the vehicle, the men peppered him with bullets, critically injuring him.
Vaughn's boss, international drug lord and multimillionaire Craig Petties, later began to mistrust Vaughn and put his own hit on Vaughn's life, but federal agents learned of the plot and intervened.
He seemed lucky when it counted. Through the years, Vaughn — a cocaine trafficker known as "V Dog" — also had altercations with police from at least three different agencies. In a 2006 incident, he led local and federal law enforcement on a high-speed chase that ended when he rammed his Jeep Commander into a Shelby County Sheriff's patrol car. Yet he escaped relatively unscathed. Now, that luck may have run out.
On the eve of his sentencing next week for his role in Petties' crime organization, Vaughn is accused of selling marijuana at the West Tennessee Detention Facility, a federal jail in Mason — nullifying his plea deal with prosecutors on charges of trafficking large amounts of cocaine.
Prosecutors recently withdrew their motion to support a reduced sentence for co-defendant Demetrius Fields, of Germantown, after allegations surfaced in August that he sold cocaine at the Mason jail.
Vaughn's attorney, Mark McDaniel, said he learned of the new allegations against his client during a phone call from a federal prosecutor.
"I've never had this happen before," he said this week. "It's disappointing and discouraging.
"I think he has served enough time for what he has done."
Vaughn has been in jail for about six years while prosecutors secured guilty pleas from Petties and more than 40 drug ring associates and convictions for alleged Petties hit men Clinton "Goldie" Lewis and his cousin Martin "M" Lewis. The organization, with ties to a vicious Mexican drug cartel, is blamed for six murders and other crimes spanning 17 years, including pumping millions of dollars of cocaine and marijuana into the southeastern U.S.
Because Vaughn has cooperated with the investigation, McDaniel had hoped his client would receive a sentence of less than 20 years. Now, Vaughn could face up to life in a federal prison without parole.
U.S. Dist. Judge Samuel "Hardy" Mays is scheduled to determine the punishment during a hearing Tuesday.
McDaniel said his client had a less active role in the drug ring than alleged by federal agents, who portrayed Vaughn as part of Petties' inner circle after Petties fled Memphis for Mexico.
"He didn't help plot murders," the defense attorney said. "He didn't help carry out murders. He was given drugs and he dealt those drugs. He was a distributor."
Prosecutors won't discuss the pending case and many of the documents are sealed, but other associates have accused Vaughn in federal documents and court testimony of helping to kidnap murder victim Marcus Turner, who was tortured for days, stripped nude, shot and dumped in an Olive Branch ditch in 2006. A Petties associate had stolen more than $4 million worth of cocaine and Petties thought Turner could help them find the thief.
McDaniel said of his client's role: "He may have summoned Marcus Turner to a meeting, but he had no knowledge at all that there was going to be a murder."
In court documents, agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency accuse Vaughn of ordering and bankrolling the August 2004 revenge death of Latrell Small, 32, whom Vaughn believed was one of the fake cops who shot him a month earlier. When a Petties hit man shot Small at a South Memphis apartment complex, the victim's 25-year-old friend Kalonji Griffin happened to be in the car and also was killed.
McDaniel, who said his client isn't to blame for the double murder, said Vaughn has "turned his life around. He's due another chance."
The attorney also questioned prosecutors' proof of the new drug-dealing allegation from two sources whose identities have not been revealed to the defense.