Judges Gavel

A Southside Virginia man who admitted to trafficking more than 150 pounds of cocaine — most of it in the Mecklenburg County area — in less than a year and a half was sentenced Thursday to 15 years and eight months in prison.

Vincent Maurice Lewis, 45, of Brodnax pleaded guilty in September to possession with the intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. He faced up to life in prison and a $10 million fine when sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne.

Lewis was arrested last May at the end of a dead-end road between South Hill and Brodnax after investigators saw him take two boxes holding a total of more than 60 pounds of cocaine from a tractor-trailer driven by Jorge Enrique Suarez, 57, of Texas.

Suarez, who drove the cocaine from Texas to Brodnax, was sentenced to three years in prison by Payne last month.

Federal sentencing guidelines, which are not binding on judges, called for Lewis to receive a prison term of roughly 15 to 20 years. Olivia Norman, an assistant U.S. attorney, asked Payne for a sentence of 15 years and eight months, at the low end of the range.

Described in court papers as “a kilogram-weight distributor” and the head of a drug trafficking organization based in Virginia and Michigan, Lewis obtained the cocaine from a drug trafficking organization in Rio Grande City, Texas, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In pleading guilty, Lewis admitted that from Jan. 1, 2018, through May 20 of last year, he received multiple shipments of cocaine from an “unindicted co-conspirator” and others and then distributed at least 71 kilograms of cocaine. Fifty kilograms were distributed in the Mecklenburg area.

In a sentencing memorandum, Norman wrote, “The lure of quick money has led too many people to illegal drug trafficking. In spite of two prior federal felony drug trafficking convictions, [Lewis] was not deterred from resuming his drug trafficking activities upon his release from prison.”

Lewis’ lawyer, Vaughan Jones, conceded that his client had prior federal drug convictions but asked for leniency, citing Lewis’ difficult upbringing and because he suffers from depression and anxiety.

When Lewis was 10 years old, his father killed his mother and then committed suicide.

Given a chance to speak before the sentence was imposed, Lewis apologized for his misconduct.

“I’m not a bad person. I had to provide for my family,” he said. Lewis also said that after the deaths of his parents, he felt he had to help support his younger siblings. A brother attempted suicide and is now paralyzed, he said.

“I failed him,” Lewis said.

Payne told Lewis that what his brother did does not mean that he failed him and suggested he discuss the matter in treatment for his depression.

“You had a tough upbringing and life,” Payne said, but added that was no excuse for repeatedly breaking the law. He warned Lewis that if he broke the law again after his next release, “You will die in prison, an old man, all alone.”

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