LYNCHBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Two men were convicted last week of distributing large amounts of cocaine in Lynchburg as part of a 25-member conspiracy that stretched from Charlotte, North Carolina into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Ricky Donnell Abner and Charay Lamont Trent were the final members of the conspiracy to be convicted, after the majority of the conspirators plead guilty to a variety of drug charges.

Abner and Trent were both accessories to Jermel Storey, the leader of a distribution ring that used a network of couriers to move cocaine and illicit marijuana between a source in Charlotte and customers in Lynchburg.

“They pumped hundreds of kilograms of narcotics into our communities here in Virginia,” U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh said after the verdict was announced on September 2, according to WSET.

Kavanaugh said they could face up to 30 years in prison on the charges, which include conspiracy to distribute, distribution of controlled substances and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

Uncovering the Network

According to a court document verified by Storey as part of his earlier guilty plea, he was the primary supplier for the other defendants, “fronting” them cocaine and then collecting cash after they had sold it.

“On some occasions, Co-conspirator #1 would travel to Charlotte, NC to acquire cocaine from STOREY,” the document reads. “On other occasions, STOREY would send couriers to deliver cocaine.”

Trent appeared to be acting as a dealer in Lynchburg. He faced five counts of distribution of cocaine, one of possession with intent and a firearms charge.

Abner, meanwhile, was initially identified by a member of the drug ring – who was arrested and turned on Storey – as a marijuana courier who had personally delivered several pounds of weed on behalf of Storey to the witness.

In October 2020, DEA agents directed their informant to make a bulk purchase of cocaine from Storey directly. In November, the informant met Storey in Charlotte, and when the deal was complete, agents trailed Storey to a home north of the city.

In January, agents executed a search of that home, finding Abner, the apparent homeowner, inside with six firearms and a kilogram of cocaine.

Abner told agents at the time that he had met Storey in 2019, when Storey “fronted” him a kilogram of cocaine. He said that cocaine was stolen from him, and so instead Abner began storing cocaine for Storey.

Abner chose to go to trial, but Storey did not, and in Storey’s plea agreement he testified that Abner would accompany him to pick up the shipments of cocaine that another courier retrieved from their supplier in Texas. During these transactions, which took place once every other week, Abner would act as Storey’s driver.

Abner had previously been convicted of dealing cocaine, serving more than a year in prison. Trent, on the other hand, was a low-level dealer for Storey, and had no criminal history noted in the criminal complaint.