Admitting he was responsible for more than 9.9 pounds of ice methamphetamine sales in the region, Wesley Gage Weldon agreed Wednesday to give $250,000 to the U.S. government.
Weldon, 42, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of meth. Federal prosecutors indicted him and eight other defendants in March for their alleged roles in a drug ring. Court filings show Weldon drove to Atlanta multiple times in the past year to buy ice methamphetamine.
Weldon will be sentenced Feb. 21. He faces at least 20 years in prison.
Of the nine defendants indicted, five have now pleaded guilty. Of those five, court filings show, Weldon was one of the more active drug dealers. His plea agreement says he was responsible for 4 1/2 kilograms of methamphetamine in the region. Another defendant, Jackie Gasaway, was responsible for about 5 kilograms.
Still, of those who have pleaded guilty so far, Weldon has given up by far the most money. Matthew Turner agreed to forfeit the second largest amount, $108,000. That is less than half of Weldon's fine. Gasaway gave up the third most with $90,000.
Weldon's attorney, Chris Townley, said he could not recall exactly how the prosecutors came to the $250,000 price tag for Weldon's plea. They entered the agreement with assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Neff in July, though the case did not go before a judge until Wednesday.
Weldon pleaded guilty alongside one of his customers, Lacey Marie Paty. A court filing shows that Weldon gave her at least 12 ounces of methamphetamine, beginning in May 2016. Paty sold the drug in East Ridge. At least four times, she told investigators, she drove to Atlanta with Weldon to meet his supplier.
Townley said he did not know if Weldon's source has been arrested, but he or she is not one of the nine people indicted in the case.
Wednesday's hearing was little more than a formality, with District Court Judge Curtis Collier making sure Weldon and Paty understood their agreements. Paty faces at least 10 years in prison for her role in the conspiracy.
"Are you pleading guilty because you are, in fact, guilty?" Collier asked.
"I am, your honor," Weldon said.
"Yes, sir," Paty added.
Court filings show the investigation into Weldon began in January 2016. At the time, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were looking into Leslie Denise Byerley. A TBI agent working undercover asked to meet with Byerley's supplier at the Wal-Mart off Brainerd Road, according to an affidavit, and Byerley rode into the store's parking lot with Weldon.
The undercover agent tried to buy an ounce of methamphetamine, and Weldon drove to Ringgold and Dalton, Ga., looking for the drug, according to the affidavit. Weldon was unsuccessful, mustering barely a gram of what the agent asked for. Weldon said he could get more of the drug, but he had experienced "a messed-up couple of days." (Byerley, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in Hamilton County Criminal Court to two counts of selling methamphetamine in November 2016.)
In January, after flushing away 3 pounds of methamphetamine as agents approached, Richard Rush told DEA agents that he and Weldon bought the drug together in Atlanta, a court filing shows. Another target, Terri Welborn, told agents that she bought about an ounce of the drug from Weldon once a week beginning last fall.
Weldon is the son of Dr. Darrell Weldon, the former chairman of the board that controlled Hutcheson Medical Center. He is the brother of Tom Weldon, a Ringgold attorney and former state representative.
Weldon also faces pending cases in North Georgia. In August 2016, the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office charged him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly shot a man in the leg at his Ringgold home on Potts Road. Investigators believe Weldon thought the victim stole ice methamphetamine from him. When searching the home, deputies found methamphetamine, morphine and LSD.
In January, the sheriff's office arrested Weldon again on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and kidnapping. Sheriff's office investigators said he told other people to strip a man, beat him, pistol-whip him and bind him with electrical tape, leaving him stranded in a rural field.
According to an affidavit in federal court, Weldon ordered the attack because the victim allegedly took methamphetamine and money from him.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.