NELSON : CA Announces ​Five Plead Guilty to Racketeering and Drug Distribution

Nelson Commonwealth Attorney Daniel Rutherford made the announcement – Friday – September 28, 2018

Nelson County, VA

Release verbatim from Nelson CA’s office:

“Friday morning, Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Daniel Rutherford announced that five individuals, Joe Louis Earhart, Donald Gerald Coles, Kathleen Howard Varner, James P. Hunsinger and John Wayne Lawhorne, pled guilty to their involvement in a corrupt organization of individuals that trafficked drugs into Nelson County and Central Virginia. Each of the five pled guilty to one count of racketeering.  Coles and Varner also had ancillary felony charges of distribution and possession of Methamphetamine; Earhart also pled guilty to one count of perjury.  These individuals were connected with Phillip Bennet of Atlanta, Georgia, who pled guilty to two counts of racketeering and enhanced distribution of Methamphetamine in the Nelson County Circuit Court on June 29, 2018. Also connected was Otis Knapp, who pled guilty to racketeering and several distribution charges in the Nelson County Circuit Courton May 29, 2018.

From March 2016 through September 2017, Earhart, Coles, Varner and Hunsinger transported Methamphetamine fromAtlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina to the Central Virginia area and then facilitated the distribution to Lawhorneand other individuals in Nelson and the surrounding counties. At the height of the ring’s operation, one pound of Methamphetamine was trafficked every week into Central Virginia.

These charges stem from a lengthy investigation by the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office, the Skyline Drug Task Force, the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement (J.A.D.E.) Task Force and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Nelson County.  

The guilty pleas from these five individuals represent a unique accomplishment by the Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office. We have used a legal tool by which those that participated in complex criminal organizations trafficking drugs could be prosecuted for their participation both inside and outside of Nelson County.

Daniel Rutherford

Commonwealth’s Attorney

Nelson County “


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