Macon street gang member gets life in federal prison for trafficking fentanyl, more

A member of a street gang who operated an armed drug organization in Macon has been sentenced to life in prison, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.

Prosecutors said Kenneth Emanuel Pertillo Jr. sold drugs mixed with lethal synthetic opioid fentanyl. Pertillo, was was also known as “Fat Boy,” according to prosecutors, was found guilty at trial in October of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine. His co-defendant, Johnifer Dernard Barnwell was also found guilty at trial of the same charges and for possessing a firearm to traffic drugs. Pertillo was sentenced Wednesday.

“This armed criminal organization was pushing large amounts of fentanyl and other lethal combinations of street drugs mixed with fentanyl into our neighborhoods, putting many people at risk of death and degrading the safety of all,” U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary said in a news release.

“Working alongside law enforcement at every level, our office will continue to leverage every available investigative and prosecutorial tool to reduce violent crime and keep communities safe.”

The FBI started investigating the large-scale drug ring in March 2020 and identified Pertillo and Barnwell as distributors, according to the news release. Prosecutors say they were part of the criminal street gang “Mafia.”

In the case, FBI agents purchased drugs from other defendants and wiretapped five phones used by members of the organization, including Barnwell, prosecutors say. The sales occurred in trap houses on Mimosa Drive and Culver Street as well as a local nightclub.

The heroin sold to the FBI agents was often tested as a fentanyl mix, prosecutors say.

On July 20, 2021, the FBI executed search warrants in eleven Macon trap houses and distribution locations on Forest Hill Road, Riverside Park Boulevard, Lucerne Drive, Shurling Drive and Kingsview Drive as well as locations where the defendants sold heroin to the agents, prosecutors said.

They found 8 kilograms of fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and cocaine base. They also found 20 firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, large-capacity firearm magazines and more than $50,000 in cash, prosecutors said.

The FBI also raided an apartment identified as a drug lab on Riverside Park Boulevard, where Barnwell and Pertillo would mix fentanyl and heroin in a kitchen blender before selling it, prosecutors say. In the apartment, FBI agents found 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, 1 kilogram of pure fentanyl, more than 1 kilogram of a pure fentanyl chemical analogue, more than 2 kilograms of blends containing fentanyl, heroin and fentanyl analogue mix.

Agents also found half a kilogram of pure heroin, more than 280 grams of cocaine base, 80 grams of cocaine and 64 grams of ketamine, several firearms, a fully loaded AR-14 drum magazine, ammunition, and $5,778 cash at that location, prosecutors say.

Overall, the organization is responsible for distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute more than 3 kilograms of fentanyl or fentanyl analogue, 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, nearly 2 kilograms of heroin and significant quantities of cocaine base and cocaine.

Pertillo was sentenced to life in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release.

Thirteen other co-defendants have been sentenced in this case, with punishments ranging from probation to 25 years in prison.