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Grandma drug mule sentenced to 12 years for smuggling cocaine on commercial flights

December 24, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Grandma drug mule sentenced to 12 years for smuggling cocaine on commercial flights

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Federal prosecutors in Detroit revealed that a grandmother named Cheryl Cheatham was the ideal drug mule as she traveled by herself and was unlikely to raise suspicion by agents.

However, the 64-year-old Arizona resident was an experienced mule for big-time drug dealers who snuck millions of dollars worth of cocaine into Detroit from Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Feds say Cheryl Cheatham collected so many frequent-flyer miles sneaking drugs onto planes — she made roughly 39 trips to Detroit — that she was even given access to a cockpit once to take a picture.

That concluded on Wednesday when Cheatham was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 12 years behind bars for her role as the drug courier for the Terrell Drug Trafficking Organization, the Detroit Free-Press reported.

The group is a cocaine distribution enterprise headed by a father and son that transported massive amounts of cocaine between Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Detroit. Cheatham assisted by successfully sneaking drugs onto flights, on airlines such as Southwest, Delta, and United.

Cheryl Cheatham, 64, of Phoenix, Ariz., was sentenced to 12 years for drug smuggling

Cheatham was arrested in 2016 after she was busted sneaking $500,000 worth of cocaine onto a Detroit-bound flight from Las Vegas and then trying to deliver the drugs after landing.

The cocaine was hidden in towels in her suitcase.

After her arrest, she called someone she claimed was her daughter. However, the contact on the phone was “Loverboy,” who was identified as Jerome Terrell — the son who headed the drug ring. Terrell and his father, Darryl, have also been charged in the case.

Months after she was arrested, Cheatham pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 5 kilos of cocaine.

The crime carries a mandatory sentence of ten years, though prosecutors requested for a stricter penalty — 236 months, due to her criminal history: Since she was in her 30s, the woman has had numerous convictions for shoplifting, selling drugs, theft and neglecting to appear in court. She served 6½ years behind bars for theft.

The Arizona grandmother earned frequent-flyer miles as a drug mule, sneaking cocaine onto planes and smuggling it into Detroit

The defense contended that the woman — who resides in Phoenix with her daughter and three grandchildren — has serious mental issues and needs medical assistance, not prison.

In court records, the defense indicated that Cheatham had had a long and challenging life: Her mother abandoned her when she was 10; her two husbands abused her and left her widowed, and she has bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, diabetes, and emphysema.

The defense also asked that Cheatham get no more than ten years.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy sentenced her to 12 years, plus another five years of supervised release, with a recommendation that she serves her sentence in a federal medical facility.

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