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Texas man sent to prison for role in Texas-to-Beaver County drug ring

| Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 4:58 p.m.

A Houston man who helped dust Western Pennsylvania with hundreds of kilograms of cocaine will spend 20 years in prison but avoided being labeled as the kingpin of a Texas-to-Beaver County drug ring.

Senior U.S. District Judge Alan Bloch on Monday sentenced Vincent D. Middlebrooks, 40, to federal prison and ordered him to spend five years on supervised release. Middlebrooks, who did not speak during the hearing Downtown, pleaded guilty last year to distributing more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, conspiracy to distribute and money laundering.

Prosecutors sought to identify Middlebrooks as the ringleader in order to increase his prison sentence. Among people who received the drugs was Carlos “Los” Cleckley, 37, a former assistant football and basketball coach at Beaver Falls High School.

Bloch found that Middlebrooks and Adrian “Tate” Taylor, 36, of Beaver Falls had a buyer-seller relationship but that Middlebrooks had no control over distribution of the drug after it left his possession.

“(Middlebrooks) in no way gave Taylor directive over what to do with the cocaine once he sold it,” Bloch said. “There is no evidence (Middlebrooks) organized the distribution ring.”

Taylor testified Monday that he paid Middlebrooks $30,000 to $38,000 a kilogram. Bloch found that Middlebrooks was responsible for shipping 180 to 200 kilograms to Western Pennsylvania from December 2009 through September 2011 by airplane and truck.

Pennsylvania state troopers' investigation of the ring dated to at least May 2010, when they took photos of Middlebrooks at Beaver Valley Mall during one of about 35 trips he made to the area, testimony revealed.

In September 2011, federal agents arrested Middlebrooks and Taylor, seizing 16 kilograms of cocaine along with $700,000 in cash. Taylor said that was the largest amount he paid Middlebrooks, which included about $210,000 he previously owed.

Taylor testified he resold the drug to six people, including Cleckley, sometimes for $40,000 a kilogram. Prosecutors charged Cleckley and Gathon Shannon, 45, of Houston, who drove the drugs from Texas to Beaver County. All pleaded guilty and are in custody.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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