Atlanta concert promoter sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for MDMA conspiracy

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

BIRMINGHAM–A federal judge sentenced an Atlanta man and co-owner of a promotions company to 10 and a half years in prison on Sept. 19, for a conspiracy to distribute thousands of MDMA pills, a drug commonly known as “ecstasy” or “molly,” through musical “raves,” concerts and music festivals he presented across the Southeast.

U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr., U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzales, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary of Law Enforcement Hal Taylor, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Helena Police Chief Pete Folmar announced the plea.

U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Haikala sentenced Woodie Louis Ochle, 40, on one count of conspiracy to distribute MDMA, in Jefferson and Shelby counties between February 2015 and April 2016, and on one count of possessing with intent to distribute the drug on April 13, 2016, in Jefferson County. Ochle pled guilty to the charges in April this year and is in custody.

“Woodie Ochle unlawfully enriched himself through an illicit drug network he devised at the expense of young people,” Town said. “Ochle is among our worst offenders because his exploitation of a combination of youth and willfulness, underscored by his criminal greed, created both addicts and victims. We have bed space reserved in our Bureau of Prisons for Mr. Ochle and those like him.”

“The Postal Service is in the business of delivering the mail and has no interest in being involved in the distribution of illegal drugs,” Gonzales said. “Postal Inspectors work tirelessly to rid the mail of illicit drugs, preserve the integrity of the mail and, most importantly, provide a safe environment for postal employees and Postal Service customers – the American public. I commend the hard work and countless hours put forth by all of the law enforcement agencies involved in this investigation.”

“HSI will continue to work with our state and federal partners to ensure illicit drugs are taken off our streets,” Parmer said. “This sentencing should serve as a warning to other criminals that we will work tirelessly to investigate, arrest and prosecute you.”

Ochle led an organization that distributed MDMA across the Southeastern United States, including Alabama and Georgia, according to court testimony. Through his Atlanta business, Freakstep Promotions, Ochle set up concerts or dance events and then distributed MDMA to people who attended the “raves.”

In 2016, Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service began investigating the large-scale smuggling and distribution of various controlled substances, including molly and ecstasy, from Europe into the U.S. through the U.S. Mail, according to evidence at Ochle’s and a co-defendant’s sentencing hearing.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized two inbound packages at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on April 7, 2016, that were destined for Bessemer and Chelsea, according to court testimony.

Each package contained 1,000 “Red Supreme” ecstasy pills, one addressed to Kenneth Howard in Chelsea and one to Jennifer Petitjean in Bessemer. HSI agents contacted ALEA and U.S. Postal inspectors and arranged controlled deliveries of the packages, according to testimony. Those deliveries led to subsequent controlled deliveries of the drugs to Howard’s cousin, Kevin Pederson, and to Ochle, who was identified as the leader of the drug-trafficking organization, according to testimony.

Investigators made a later controlled delivery to Shawn Perkins in Birmingham, for whom Petitjean said she was receiving package deliveries.

The confiscated drugs, which included the packaged pills, plus more ecstasy pills, xanax pills, the drug “molly,” LSD, cocaine and marijuana seized from Pederson’s vehicle, his Birmingham apartment, and from the U.S. Mail, were destined for Spring Weekend in Panama City Beach, Florida, for distribution, according to testimony. Spring Weekend is a beach music festival that caters to young adults.

During the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized approximately 30 pounds of illegal drugs, including about 20,000 pressed ecstasy pills, and four pounds of crystal “molly.”

Pedersen, 28, Perkins, 22, Petitjean, 31, and Howard, 38, all have pled guilty to the conspiracy to distribute MDMA. All await sentencing, except for Howard who received eight weekends in custody.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-HSI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, ALEA, Alabama Attorney General’s Office and Helena Police investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Felton prosecuted.