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Man tied to Aryan Brotherhood pleads guilty in drug-trafficking case

McGregor Scott at a news conference in Sacramento with the Department of Justice seal behind him.
McGregor Scott, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, at a news conference in Sacramento on Monday.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A man affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang has pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute heroin and methamphetamine inside and outside California’s prisons, federal officials announced.

Samuel Keeton, 41, of Menifee in Riverside County, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and to conspiracy to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, U.S. Atty. McGregor Scott said Monday.

Between March 2016 and at least October of that year, Keeton picked up and distributed methamphetamine and heroin on behalf of the Aryan Brotherhood and delivered drug proceeds to the white supremacist gang’s associates outside prison. He also smuggled cellphones, drugs and other contraband into California State Prison Sacramento, in one instance with the help of a Southern California attorney, according to the plea agreement.

Keeton was one of 16 Aryan Brotherhood members and associates charged in June with directing killings and drug-smuggling from within California’s most secure prisons by using contraband cellphones, encrypted chats, text messages, multimedia messages and email, prosecutors said.

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They include nine current inmates charged with racketeering, conspiracy and other charges, and seven people outside prison accused of assisting the gang in activities in Las Vegas and as far east as Missouri and South Dakota.

Among the inmates charged is Daniel “Danny” Troxell, 66, a convicted killer serving a life sentence who was known for writing a federal complaint in 2009 that eventually led California to curb the use of solitary confinement.

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The charges also allege that cellmates Ronald “Renegade” Yandell, 56, and William Sylvester, 51, used smuggled cellphones to direct heroin- and methamphetamine-trafficking operations in California.

Yandell, serving a life sentence for a double murder, is described as one of the gang’s three-member leadership, as is Troxell.

“As part of his guilty plea, Keeton admitted that he knew that Yandell and Sylvester were AB members based upon his discussions with them during 2016, including the crimes that he was asked to commit and that he agreed to commit, such as assisting in smuggling cellphones, drugs, and other contraband into prison,” prosecutors said.

Keeton is scheduled to be sentenced by a federal judge March 29. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million.


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