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New Orleans man pleads guilty to distributing heroin and agrees to forfeit a Mercedes Benz and diamond encrusted jewelry

NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that Arthur Johnson, age 44, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, pled guilty on August 24, 2021 to conspiring to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. Johnson is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment up to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, a possible fine of up to $10,000,000, and at least five years of supervised release upon his release from prison.  JOHNSON must also pay a mandatory $100 special assessment cost.

According to court records, on December 27, 2017, agents intercepted communications between Johnson, a New Orleans based heroin dealer, and Ricky Redd, a Chicago-based drug courier. In these communications, Johnson and Redd discussed a pending delivery of heroin. Redd was driving that day from Chicago to New Orleans to give Johnson a bag containing approximately three kilograms of heroin.

Later that same day, surveillance agents observed Johnson And Redd met twice at a Holiday Inn Hotel in New Orleans. During the first meeting, Redd gave Johnson a red bag containing approximately three kilograms of heroin. During the second meeting, Johnson gave Redd approximately $187,000. Redd was to earn a small amount of the money that Johnson paid him.

The next day, December 28, 2017, agents conducted a traffic stop of Johnson.  Johnson was placed under arrest and agents seized three brick chucks of heroin and eleven bags of heroin, totaling 1.3 kilograms of heroin from his home in New Orleans East. Agents also seized from the home a digital scale, six cell phones, over $11,000 in cash, a money counter, a kilogram press, two sealed GNC Inositol bottles, which are used as “cutting agents” to dilute heroin, and numerous items of jewelry, including diamond-encrusted necklaces and a diamond-encrusted Rolex watch.

The evidence against Johnson includes numerous intercepted communications, including jail calls, physical surveillance, witness statements, and controlled purchases of heroin. Between April 2017 and December 2017, agents identified thirteen cellular phones used by Johnson. Johnson’s practice was to purchase a disposable “burner” cell phone approximately every 30 days and notify his drug associates via text when he obtained a new phone number. Johnson would use the new phone in furtherance of his drug operation. After thirty days, Johnson would discard the phone and immediately obtain a new phone. Johnson, who previously had been convicted of federal drug charges, engaged in this practice to thwart law enforcement and avoid wiretaps.

Pursuant to the plea agreement, Johnson agreed to forfeit a 2017 Mercedes Benz, $11,543.00 in cash, and jewelry, including a Rolex watch covered in approximately 17.45 carats of diamonds, a gold tennis necklace with approximately 25.67 carats of diamonds, a ninja shaped pendant covered with the phrases “XXO” and “Never Hesitate” and which is attached to a crown with approximately 10 carats of diamonds, a gold crown pendant covered in approximately 5.42 carat of diamonds, a gold tennis necklace with approximately 4.68 carats of diamonds, and a gold and diamond rope necklace.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan will sentence Johnson on December 1, 2021. Johnson and six other defendants were charged in 2018 with conspiring to distribute heroin in the New Orleans area. All but one of these defendants have pled guilty

U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the FBI’s New Orleans Gang Task Force in investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorneys David Howard Sinkman and Brandon Long are in charge of the prosecution.