FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — A Fayetteville couple was sentenced Friday (Oct. 19) to a combined 28 years in federal prison for running a drug ring that spanned four states.
Derrick Nicholson, 50, received 20 years in prison and was fined $10,000 on drug trafficking charges. His wife, LaQueecha Nicholson, 42, received eight years in prison for her role in the scheme.
The FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force (SSTF) and local police began investigating the operation in late 2016, using several controlled buys to purchase methamphetamine and heroin from Derrick Nicholson and his associates, according to Dak Kees, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.
Investigators said the Nicholsons also oversaw shipments of cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana between Arkansas, California, Texas and Mississippi.
Police arrested Derrick Nicholson in 2017, but his wife took on a leadership role in the drug ring.
The investigation culminated with 10 arrests in March after police learned the identifies of several other suspects.
Diane Upchurch, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Little Rock office, praised the cooperation between several law enforcement agencies in capping a “successful investigation and prosecution.”
“We hope that Derrick Nicholson’s 20-year jail sentence will serve as a warning to others that the people of the State of Arkansas will not tolerate the illegal distribution of narcotics within our state,” Upchurch said.
Kees added that the sentencing reflected two years of hard work and sacrifice by investigators.
“This operation is a prime example of the commitment Northwest Arkansas law enforcement has towards ensuring the safety of our community,” Kees said.
Four other suspects were convicted and sentenced as part of a 15-count indictment related to the drug ring:
- Johnny Nicholson, 43, of Springdale was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison followed by four years of supervised release
- Marcus Derby, 37, of Dallas, Texas was sentenced to 96 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release
- Jeffery Hollingsworth, 50, of Fayetteville was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release
- Derrick Hill, 42, of Fayetteville was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release
The case was part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative, Kees said.
The nationwide effort that brings together federal, state and local law enforcement resources to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in a community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them, Kees said.
Judge Tim Brooks presided over sentencing. Assistant U.S. attorney David Harris prosecuted the case.