published Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Sentencing scheduled for Memphis drug gang leader

MEMPHIS — A judge has set a sentencing date for the leader of a violent Memphis-based drug organization with ties to Mexico’s Beltran Leyva cartel.

U.S. District Judge Samuel Mays set an Aug. 22 sentencing date for Craig Petties, who appeared in court wearing a tan prison jumpsuit Thursday. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison with no parole.

Petties secretly pleaded guilty in December 2009 to racketeering, money laundering, and ordering four murders of suspected government snitches and people who were threats to the organization. His plea was not disclosed until February 2011.

Petties ran an organization in which cocaine and marijuana were shipped from Mexico to Memphis in semi-trucks, then distributed for sale throughout the South. About 30 gang members have pleaded guilty to various charges, and two of the organization’s enforcers were convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison.

Petties fled to Mexico after his 2002 indictment. He was placed on the U.S. Marshals Service 15 Most Wanted list before his January 2008 capture.

Sentencing had been set for Thursday, in a hearing that the court said would be closed to the public and the press. But defense attorneys asked for more time to file documents related to the sentence length, and Mays rescheduled the hearing.

A judge can seal parts of a sentencing hearing if the person being sentenced is a cooperating witness in an ongoing investigation.

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