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Virginia cocaine dealer sentenced to life

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Eric Smith, 46, of Petersburg, Va., was sentenced today to life in prison for participating in a cocaine trafficking ring for nearly five years. Because Smith had been convicted for two prior drug offenses, he faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison. This sentencing follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other federal and local law enforcement agencies.

"The sentencing of Eric Smith to life in federal prison sends a strong message to recidivist criminals that they will be held accountable for their criminal actions," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge for ICE's Office of Investigations in Washington, D.C. "ICE is committed to taking criminals who threaten the safety and security of our community off the streets."

On Dec. 18, 2009, a federal jury convicted Smith of participating in a drug conspiracy that distributed more than five kilograms of cocaine, as well as three counts of using a communication facility.

According to court documents and evidence introduced at trial, from the spring of 2004 to September 2009, Smith operated from Petersburg purchasing approximately 9.1 kilograms of cocaine and then re-distributing the cocaine to other dealers in Petersburg. He also assisted in renting hotel rooms in Petersburg for co-conspirators and drove to Tidewater to retrieve additional cocaine.

"Eric Smith returned to dealing cocaine just months after getting out of prison - his second time," said U.S. Attorney MacBride. "It's clear that two long prison terms weren't enough to keep him from trafficking drugs. Petersburg is safer now that he and his partners are off the streets."

This case was investigated by ICE in conjunction with the Central Virginia Narcotics Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration.