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Longtime TN inmate, prison gang leader to serve life sentence for running meth ring behind prison walls

Charles Elsea Jr., 44, was sentenced on drug trafficking charges as well as money laundering charges. He was ordered to give around $1.2 million.

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — A man who has been in prison since 1996 for a first-degree murder charge in Hamilton County was sentenced to life in prison on Monday, according to a release from the Department of Justice.

They said Charles Elsea Jr., 44, is a longtime inmate of the Tennessee Department of Corrections. After a 6-day trial in March 2022, he was convicted of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Judge J. Ronnie Greer sentenced him and he was also ordered to give around $1.2 million, representing proceeds from distributing methamphetamine and money laundering.

While in prison for the first-degree murder charge, authorities said he became the State President of the Brotherhood Forever, a Tennessee-based prison gang. According to the ADL, they are also known as the Tennessee Aryan Brotherhood and use racist symbols to identify themselves.

Authorities said Elsea led a drug trafficking operation from prison using smuggled phones, orchestrating multi-kilo methamphetamine deals. They said as part of the deals, drugs would be taken from California and Arizona to Tennessee. He and his co-conspirators then used money from those deals to create marijuana grow houses inside and outside of the state.

They also said that while this case was pending, Elsea was involved in starting marijuana grow operations. They said he used the jail's video system to speak to co-conspirators about growing marijuana.

Several agencies across the U.S. were involved in the investigation leading to the case.

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