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Malden man sentenced to 6+ years in prison for drug & firearms conspiracy involving machine guns

Defendant was serving probation sentence and on pretrial release for a pending state drug trafficking case while conspiring to distribute drugs and brandishing a firearm

Advocate Staff Report

  On September 8 a Malden man was sentenced in connection with his role in a drug trafficking conspiracy in which he possessed over 150 grams of cocaine base (crack cocaine) and other controlled substances and conspired to possess firearms. Phillips Charles, aka “PHON C,” 22, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to 78 months in prison and four years of supervised release. On April 26, 2022, Charles pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base, fentanyl, cocaine, marijuana and other controlled substances and one count of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

  “Mr. Charles repeatedly and flagrantly violated the conditions of his state pretrial release. Not only did he continue to traffic deadly narcotics on our streets, but he also recklessly wielded deadly firearms – seriously endangering the safety of our communities,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “This case demonstrates this office’s commitment to utilize all resources necessary in our fight against drug trafficking and violent crime in the Commonwealth.”

  “This first-time federal felon profited from the misery of others who were addicted to the poison he peddled,” said the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Boston Division, Joseph R. Bonavolonta. “Today’s sentence protects the public from Phillips Charles’ escalating criminal behavior, and his proclivity towards drug dealing, firearms, and violence.”

  “This case is the product of a collaborative effort on the part of ATF and its local and federal partners to target, investigate, and eliminate the perpetrators of violent crime,” said the Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), James M. Ferguson. “This sentence sends a clear and direct message that we take the illegal possession of firearms and narcotics very seriously and [it] will not be tolerated in our communities.”

  While on pretrial release from Malden District Court and Middlesex Superior Court for an October 2019 arrest involving cocaine base – for which he later served a probation sentence – he continued to conspire with others to distribute large quantities of controlled substances. Members of the conspiracy also possessed firearms, including multiple firearms with “selector switches” that convert firearms into machine guns, to protect the drug trafficking operation and target rival gang members. Specifically, while on pretrial release, Charles was involved in the filming of a publicly posted music video in which Charles was shown along with numerous firearms, including a firearm with an attached “selector switch,” one of which he was shown handling and pointing at the camera. Videos and text messages recovered during the investigation revealed that Charles historically possessed a number of firearms.

  Additionally – while still on pretrial release in October 2020 and following a brief encounter with a rival gang member, his girlfriend and their one-year-old child at the Square One Mall in Saugus – Charles pursued the victim and his family and fired at least seven rounds into their vehicle. Charles remained on pretrial release until he was arrested and charged in state court with possessing a firearm in December 2020.

  First Assistant Attorney Levy, FBI SAC Bonavolonta, ATF SAC Ferguson, Massachusetts States Police Superintendent Colonel Christopher Mason and Malden Police Chief Glenn Cronin made the announcement. Assistance was provided by the Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk County District Attorneys’ Offices; Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk and Hancock (Maine) County Sheriff’s Departments; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine; the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency; and the Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Danvers, Everett, Lynn, Malden, Salem, Saugus, Somerville, Revere, Bolton (Maine), Bangor (Maine), Portland (Maine) and Westbrook (Maine) Police Departments. Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip A. Mallard of the Organized Crime & Gang Unit prosecuted the case.

  This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about OCDETF can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

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