Three men were sentenced last week for their involvement in racketeering in Nelson County.
Last week, 24th Judicial District Judge Michael Garrett sentenced Joe Earhart, Donald Coles, and James Hunsinger for charges related to participation in racketeering. All three men were connected to Phillip Bennet, of Atlanta, who pled guilty to two counts of racketeering and enhanced distribution of methamphetamine in Nelson County Circuit Court in June 2018.
Bennet was set to be sentenced on June 25 as well, but his sentencing hearing was continued.
Judge Garrett sentenced Earhart to 30 years, with 21 years and four months suspended for one count of felony racketeering and one year with all suspended for one count of perjury. Coles was sentenced to 25 years with 20 suspended for one count of felony racketeering, two years with all suspended for one count of failure to appear, and seven years with all suspended for one count of distribution. Hunsinger was sentenced to 30 years with 26 years and six months suspended on one count of felony racketeering.
Judge Garrett sentenced all three men for time in addition to time they are currently serving on other charges.
In a separate interview on June 28, Nelson County Commonwealth's Attorney Daniel Rutherford said all of the sentencings given in relation to the racketeering busts since December 2016 are rewarding.
"It's been a very rewarding, trying, challenging investigation," Rutherford said. "This new approach of charging as an illegal enterprise has been very successful."
According to a press release from Rutherford in February, from March 2016 through November 2017, Earhart, Hunsinger, and Coles, along with a number of other individuals, transported methamphetamine from Atlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina to the Central Virginia area and then facilitated the distribution to other individuals in Nelson and surrounding areas.
Phillip Bennet is set to be sentenced on August 20 in Nelson County Circuit Court.