Crack ring defendant facing 10-year prison sentence

The final defendant in a nine-member ring that distributed crack cocaine around the Winchester area was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to 10 years in prison.

Authorities said Ethan Jackson, 26, and other ring members sold crack received from Florida in amounts of $50 to $250. Members of the conspiracy shuttled between Florida and Winchester several times a month and conducted drug transactions out of hotels in the Winchester area, prosecutors said.

“They traveled together, stayed in hotel rooms together near one another and provided drugs to each other to further the conspiracy,” the statement said.

Prosecutors gave Jackson’s addresses as Winchester and Clewiston, Florida.

A sentencing memo from Jackson’s attorney, David Downes, says that the leading figure in the ring, Kareem Lomax Robinson, recruited Jackson as a member. Jackson was arrested May 13, 2013 at the Super 8 motel in Winchester. Police seized about two ounces of crack and $373 from Jackson and a much larger amount of crack and money from a nearby hotel room registered to Robinson, Downes wrote.

Other members of the ring and their sentences are: Robinson, 17 years; Bobby Clyde Stewart Jr., 15 years; Jeremiah Dion McMillian, 11 years; Wendal Anthony Ferguson, eight years and Susan Ann Ruppenthal, two years. Johnny Lewis Hunter, Lacy Leann Shuck and Andrew James Thomas were each sentenced to 10 years.

Sgt. Jay Perry, coordinator of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force, said crack trafficking in the area has fallen off in recent years and been replaced by heroin. Perry said the task force has brought 18 drug cases into U.S. District Court this year, most of them involving heroin and heroin-related deaths.

“Obviously, we’re still making crack cases,” Perry said. “It just seems we’ve shifted our focus to the drug that’s killing people. The majority is opiates and heroin.”

Perry had no explanation for why some heroin dealers from Florida find their way to Winchester.

“Every few years, we get a group that comes up from Florida and sets up shop,” Perry said. “I don’t know why they choose this area, but they do.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or