D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, has announced his resignation, effective Feb. 28. U.S. Attorney. Dunavant has served in office since September 2017.
It was a move expected after President Donald J. Trump lost the election.
U.S. Attorney Dunavant was appointed by Trump as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate.
Dunavant was sworn in as the 50th person to serve as the United States Attorney on Sept. 21, 2017. In that capacity, Dunavant supervised a total office staff of 85 federal employees, including 45 Assistant U.S. Attorneys; managed,
oversaw, and implemented a total annual operating office budget of over $10 million; and oversaw the investigation, prosecution, and litigation of all criminal and civil cases brought on behalf of the United States in West Tennessee.
“Nearly three and a half years ago I was provided the professional honor of a lifetime,”
U.S. Attorney Dunavant said. “To be able to serve the district where I was born, raised
and educated, and for which I have tremendous love and respect, was a remarkable
experience. I am tremendously grateful to President Trump, Senators Lamar Alexander
and Bob Corker, and Congressman David Kustoff for placing their trust in me. I am
confident that the extraordinary professionals of the U.S. Attorney’s Office will remain
tirelessly devoted to the unwavering cause of justice on behalf of the citizens of West
Tennessee and our great nation. I am proud of the consequential work we have
accomplished in the Trump administration, including achieving justice for victims,
consequences for criminals, support for law enforcement, resources for communities,
protection of the U.S. Treasury, better public safety results for citizens, and respect for
the rule of law. I am also exceedingly proud to have worked alongside the brave and
dedicated men and women of law enforcement as they have selflessly served and
sacrificed to make our communities safer. As I step away from this esteemed post, I
remain committed to being actively engaged in serving our state and nation in the future.”
When he assumed the role as U.S. Attorney in 2017, Mr. Dunavant committed himself to
protecting the nearly 1.6 million citizens that comprise West Tennessee through the
vigorous enforcement of federal laws and prosecution of high-impact cases in all 22
counties of the district. Mr. Dunavant operated a full service U.S. Attorney’s Office which
faithfully executed all applicable laws of Congress, including the Armed Career Criminal
Act, the Controlled Substances Act, the False Claims Act, the First Step Act, and the
Migratory Bird Act.
Some of Mr. Dunavant’s many highlights during his tenure as U.S. Attorney include the
following initiatives, priorities, and programs:
• He reinvigorated the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Task Force in Memphis,
recruiting the addition of new agents and resources from partner law enforcement
agencies. In the first year in office, he dramatically increased the number of federal
firearms cases filed by over 58%, and the number of defendants charged with
firearms offenses by over 68%, leading to a two-year total decrease of 13.1% in
overall violent crime and reported gun crime rates from 2017-2019.
• He led the DOJ Public Safety Partnership (PSP) Initiative with local team
stakeholders in West Tennessee to receive federal resources for law enforcement training and technical assistance in an innovative framework to enhance data-
driven, evidence-based local strategies for violence reduction; and led and hosted the National PSP Symposium on Violent Crime in Memphis in September 2019.
• He served on the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)
Executive Board, which continued funding to implement and sustain the Heroin
Initiative, a joint coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Shelby
County District Attorney’s Office, DEA, and the MPD Organized Crime Unit that
exclusively targets crimes and overdoses involving the distribution of heroin,
fentanyl, and prescription opioids. Also while serving on the HIDTA Executive
Board, Dunavant coordinated and supported a successful proposal to add and
designate Madison County, Tennessee as a new county in the Gulf Coast HIDTA
Region, which will significantly expand the law enforcement resource footprint in
West Tennessee for drug investigations and interdiction.
• He participated in the DOJ Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO)
Strike Force, working closely with other state and federal law enforcement agencies
to identify, investigate and prosecute cases involving healthcare fraud and
unlawful distribution and diversion of prescription opioids by medical
professionals, resulting in the indictments of 16 medical professionals in Memphis
and Jackson in 2019.
• He created and sustained a new Carjacking Initiative with ATF and local law
enforcement agencies for coordinated, targeted, and increased federal prosecution
of armed carjacking offenses in Memphis and Shelby County.
• He served on the Executive Board of the Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU), which is
comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement officials, with a common goal
of combating criminal gang activity in Memphis and Shelby County.
• He initiated and led a combined multi-agency law enforcement operation, “Bluff
City Blues” with the U.S. Marshals Service in Memphis and Jackson that resulted
in a total of 214 arrests, including 79 identified gang members, 65 individuals for aggravated assault, 34 individuals for homicide, 69 individuals for weapons
offenses, and 40 individuals for drug offenses, and the seizure of 28 firearms.
• He initiated and led the “Operation Crime Driver” anti-violence initiative in Tipton
County, TN, partnering with multiple state and local law enforcement agencies to
target violent offenders with outstanding arrest warrants. The operation resulted
in the federal indictments of six individuals from Tipton County, TN for firearms
and drug offenses, including Maurice Nash, A/K/A “Monster,” of Atoka, TN who
was sentenced as an armed career criminal to over 17 years in federal prison for
being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
• He hosted Attorney General Sessions, Attorney General Barr, and Acting Attorney
General Whitaker in Memphis for announcements of major DOJ initiatives,
including PSP, ATF Gun Strike Force & Crime Gun Intelligence Center, Project
Guardian, and Operation LeGend.
• After the Attorney General designated Memphis as one of a few select cities to
receive enhanced federal resources to combat violent crime, Mr. Dunavant led the
law enforcement efforts of both the Operation Relentless Pursuit and Operation
LeGend initiatives, coordinating with the ATF, FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service
(USMS), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to surge and deploy 40 new
temporary and permanent federal agents into Memphis to work with the Memphis
Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Multi-Agency Gang Unit, and
the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office in a sustained and systematic
task force model to fight high levels of violent crime.
• He secured the allocation of DOJ federal grant funding for local law enforcement
agencies in support of Operation LeGend and related efforts: City of Memphis
Police Department – $9,823,624 (COPS Hiring Program funds, to hire 50 new
officers); Shelby County Sheriff’s Office – $1,628,571 (Operation Relentless
Pursuit/Operation LeGend); City of Memphis – $500,000 (Real Time Crime
Center); Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office – $398,864 (Project
• He led public awareness efforts at the onset and throughout the COVID-19
pandemic to encourage reporting and investigation of hoarding and price-gouging
of critical medical supplies, PPP fraud, treatment and vaccine scams, and COVID
• He coordinated with federal, state, and local law enforcement to protect critical
infrastructure sites and mitigate threat risks to significant events, including
election security, federal buildings and property, and the 50th Anniversary of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination (MLK 50 – April 4, 2018).
• He developed and launched three new video public service announcements (PSAs)
providing targeted messaging to educate and inform the public to raise awareness
and increase reporting about the Department of Justice priority areas of violent
crime, elder fraud, and opioids.
• He joined with ATF and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to
launch the “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” public awareness campaign to warn about
the seriousness of the crime of purchasing a firearm for someone who cannot
legally do so, and to deter potential straw purchases.
With a focus on aggressively prosecuting cases involving violent crime, child exploitation,
immigration offenses, health care fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, public corruption,
gang conspiracies and racketeering, drug trafficking organizations, and unlawful firearm
possession, prosecutorial highlights and case examples during Mr. Dunavant’s tenure
• Patricia Parsons, of Brighton, Tennessee, was sentenced to 60 months in federal
prison for aiding and abetting solicitation to commit the kidnapping of a State
Court Judge and County Sheriff.
• Jeremy Drewery, former Shelby County Sheriff’s deputy, was sentenced to 63
months in federal prison for Hobbs Act Extortion, Receipt of a Bribe by a
Government Agent, and Solicitation to Tamper with a Witness.
• Byron Montrail Purdy, a/k/a “Lil B” or “Ghetto,” of Jackson, Tennessee, was
sentenced to 360 months imprisonment and five years of supervised release for
leading and conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise, as part of a large
RICO conspiracy case known as “Operation .38 Special”, charging and convicting
a total of 16 members of the Gangster Disciples criminal enterprise with
racketeering and other crimes, resulting in the disruption and dismantlement of
the Gangster Disciples organization, including several governors, enforcers, and
ranking members of the gang.
• Marvin “Pookie” Foster, of Lauderdale County, TN, was sentenced to 300 months
in federal prison for distributing heroin resulting in a fatal overdose.
• Deon Brown, Sr., a/k/a/ “Pleezy,” of Bolivar, TN, was sentenced to 275 months in
federal prison for conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of actual
• WellBound of Memphis agreed to pay a $3,246,000 settlement of a False Claims
Act complaint against the healthcare company for false claims to Medicare,
TriCare, and TennCare for services rendered to home dialysis patients that were
due to illegal inducements paid in violation of the Anti-Kickback statute.
• Quenton Irwin White, former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee
as well as the former Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction,
was sentenced to federal prison for a mail fraud scheme to defraud Black farmer
• Cornelius Richmond, of Memphis, was sentenced to 324 months in federal prison
for committing armed robberies of a Brink’s Armored Truck and Circle K store.
• Calvin Bailey, Sandra Bailey, and Bryan Bailey, of Milan, TN, were sentenced to a
total of 249 months in federal prison for Conspiracy to defraud Medicare, Medicaid
and Tricare resulting in millions of dollars of loss to federal health care programs.
• Gloria Harris, of Memphis, was sentenced to 64 months in federal prison on bank
fraud charges arising from her theft of approximately $292,500 from her former
employer, Crescent Medical Corporation.
• Ronda Hopkins Richards, owner of Ronda’s Travel Corner, in Jackson, TN, was
sentenced to federal prison for a wire fraud scheme in which she defrauded
approximately 100 clients/victims of funds related to their travel, with a total loss
of approximately $410,280.25.
• Dimitar Petlechkov, a Bulgarian national, was sentenced to federal prison for mail
fraud in a scheme to defraud FedEx, resulting in over $800,000 in financial losses.
• Cleve Collins, aka Milton Cleve Collins of Memphis was sentenced to federal prison
for major fraud involving a scheme to defraud the United States on a construction
contract valued at approximately $1.5 million administered by the General
Services Administration for the replacement of the roof and the air conditioning
system at the Ed Jones Federal Courthouse and Post Office in Jackson, TN.
• Guy Randal Stockard, a/k/a Randy, owner of Southern Meat Market in Memphis,
was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison for defrauding the federal
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food
Stamp Program, of more than $1.2 million over an approximately 28-month
• Antonio Hawkins, of Memphis, was was sentenced to 360 months in federal prison
on five counts related to sex trafficking, including sex trafficking of a minor victim
and sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion.
• Michael Jay Harris, of McNairy County, TN, was sentenced as a career drug
offender to life imprisonment for methamphetamine trafficking.
• Kevin Coleman and Terrion Bryson, both former Memphis Police Officers, were
sentenced to federal prison for narcotics, weapons, and extortion offenses
committed while on duty.
• Zachary M. Baker was sentenced to federal prison in connection with theft of over
$800,000 from his former employer, Masterson Farms, a horse breeding farm
located in Somerville, Tennessee.
• Michael Beamish, of Obion County, was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison
for solicitation and enticement of a minor for sexual activity.
• Brian Black, former Crockett County 911 Director, was sentenced to 57 months in
federal prison for embezzlement of $178,000 from the trust account of a decedent’s
• Michael and Tawni Boutin, featured marijuana farmers on a television show called
“Weed Country” in Oregon, were both sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy
to distribute high-grade marijuana from Oregon to West Tennessee.
• Marlon Pruitt a/k/a “Big Putt”, of Memphis, was sentenced as an armed career
criminal to 15 years in federal prison for being a convicted felon in possession of a
firearm and drugs.
• Marcus Danner a/k/a “Poncho”, of Memphis, was sentenced to 352 months
imprisonment for his leadership role of an armed robbery crew and a member of a
drug trafficking organization.
• Cortez Armstrong, of Memphis, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for
distributing a lethal dose of fentanyl resulting in a fatal overdose.
• Christino Alcazar-Ortiz and Armando Alcazar-Ortiz, of Union City, were both
sentenced to 120 months imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute and possess
with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine and
Illegal Reentry into the United States after having been previously deported.
• Jason King, a former employee and cast member of the TV series, the “Deadliest
Catch,” was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison for possession of a firearm as
a convicted felon.
• Willie Somerville, of Tipton County, TN, was sentenced to life in federal prison plus
10 years for his leadership role in the home invasion attempted robbery and
murder of Timothy Edwards in Covington. Co-defendants Armoni Hall, Eddie
Poindexter, Christian Sherrill, and Darrell Owens were also convicted for their
participation in the robbery, and each received significant federal sentences.
• Brandon Albonetti, of Memphis, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for
the armed robberies and attempted robberies of five CVS stores and one Burger
King during the summer of 2018.
• Marlon “Jazz” Taylor, of McKenzie, TN, was sentenced to life in prison for his
leadership role in a conspiracy to distribute multiple kilograms of actual
methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and firearms.
• James Nelson, of Memphis, was sentenced as an armed career criminal to 405
months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm he used in the
domestic shooting death of his child’s mother.
• Roland Jackson and Taveyon Turnbo, both from Chicago, Illinois, were sentenced
to a total of 109 months in federal prison for transporting and possession of 366
stolen firearms taken from the United Parcel Services (“UPS”) facility in Memphis.
• SK Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd. (SK), one of the largest engineering firms
in the Republic of Korea, pled guilty to wire fraud in connection with a fraudulent
scheme to obtain U.S. Army contracts through payments to a U.S. Department of
Defense contracting official and the submission of false claims to the U.S.
government, resulting in the payment by the defendant of $60,578,847.08 in
criminal fines, the largest fine ever imposed against a criminal defendant in the
Western District of Tennessee.
• James Jackson, of Memphis, known as the “Father of Identity Theft”, was
sentenced to 17 years in federal prison for multiple counts of mail fraud, aggravated
identity theft, access device fraud and theft of mail resulting in losses to victims of
• Olufolajimi Abegunde, an extradited citizen of Nigeria residing in Atlanta, and
Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso, a citizen of Mexico residing in California, were
sentenced to federal prison for an international cyber fraud scheme involving
online dating and business email compromises.
• Sequna Copeland a/k/a “Cutthroat”, of Ripley, Tennessee, was sentenced to 120
months in federal prison on two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of
a firearm that was used in the murder of a pregnant woman.
• Michael Love, of Horn Lake, MS, was given multiple life sentences in federal prison
after having been found guilty of kidnapping and sexually assaulting six women in
Memphis and attempting to kidnap and rape a seventh between 2008 and 2015.
• Jamal Cherry and Wendy Thomas were sentenced to federal prison for robbery of
mail, money or other property of the United States and use of a firearm during and
in relation to a crime of violence, arising out of the armed robbery of a United
States Postal Letter Carrier.
• Johnny Lee Nixon, Jr. was sentenced to 160 months in federal prison for
Conspiracy to Commit multiple business robberies, Hobbs Act business robbery,
possession of a firearm during a robbery, and receiving firearms while under indictment during 3 business robberies and 2 shooting incidents in the
Brownsville, Haywood County area.
• Isaiah Miller, of Memphis, was sentenced to 300 months in federal prison for
participating in multiple (4) armed carjackings and brandishing a firearm during
crimes of violence.
• Keith Norris, of Weakley County, was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison for
leading a drug trafficking organization in a conspiracy to distribute
• Gene Allen Howell, of Selmer, Tennessee, was sentenced to 38 years in federal
prison for two armed bank robberies in McNairy and Henderson counties.
• Calvin Cole a/k/a “Fathead,” of Jackson, TN, was sentenced to 170 months in
federal prison for being a leader in a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances
from a residence in Alamo, TN.
• Argel Hernandez-Escobar was sentenced to federal prison for possessing a firearm
as an illegal alien which was used in the fatal shooting of his minor child, and
illegally re-entering the United States.
• Cortez Young was sentenced to a total of 52 years in federal prison for committing
nine (9) armed business robberies across Memphis over a period of 44 days.
• Richard Farmer, a psychiatrist in Memphis, was sentenced to 4 years in federal
prison for distribution of controlled substances outside the scope of professional
practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.
• Former TDOC Correctional Officers Tommy Morris, Nathaniel Griffin, Tanner
Penwell, Carl Spurlin, Jr., Cadie McAlister, and Jonathan York, were charged and
convicted for their roles in the civil rights violations during the assault of an
inmate, and the conspiracy to obstruct the investigation by covering up evidence
and providing false information.
Mr. Dunavant also led successful investigations and federal prosecutions of multiple
criminal gang organizations, including the Gangster Disciples, Major Stackz
Entertainment, Stackz Squad, Vice Lords, Kitchen Crips, Bloods, Conservative Vice
Lords/Concrete Cartel, Peda Roll Mafia, Fast Cash Boyz Entertainment, Young Mob,
Grape Street Crips, and the Stendo gang.
Between 2017 and 2021, Mr. Dunavant supervised a Financial Litigation Unit in the U.S.
Attorney’s Office that collected more than $76 million in criminal and civil actions for
victims of crime and the United States Treasury.
In 2019, Mr. Dunavant initiated and joined a legal action with Deputy Attorney General
Rosenstein and U.S. Attorney colleagues in Tennessee to challenge, oppose, and stay the
effectiveness of BPR Formal Ethics Opinion 2017-F-163, which expanded a Tennessee prosecutor’s duty of disclosure of information beyond that which is required by well-
established substantive federal law. Dunavant drafted and signed the DOJ Amicus Brief to the Tennessee Supreme Court which ultimately vacated the formal ethics opinion and
clarified that prosecutors’ ethical duties under Rule 3.8(d) are coextensive with their legal
obligations under Brady and its progeny.
In addition, Mr. Dunavant served on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee’s
(AGAC) Violent & Organized Crime Subcommittee, Native American Issues
Subcommittee, and the Controlled Substances Subcommittee, where he provided input
and guidance on a Parcel Interdiction Initiative recommendation to the Attorney General.
Mr. Dunavant was responsible for fully staffing both the Memphis and Jackson divisions
of the U.S. Attorney’s Office by hiring nearly half of the Office’s current Assistant U.S.
Attorneys (AUSAs), along with one-third of the Office’s support staff. He created and
appointed a dedicated Appellate Division responsible for handling all appeals in both
criminal and civil matters in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals; restructured the Criminal
Division of the Memphis office into three distinct subject matter units for greater
efficiency; increased the appointment and allocation of Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys
(SAUSAs) from state prosecutor offices; and designated an Elder Justice Coordinator to
target elder fraud and financial exploitation cases. He was able to accomplish these
milestones while navigating his staff through several unprecedented challenges, including
the longest government shutdown in American history (from December 22, 2018, to
January 25, 2019), a worldwide pandemic health crisis, nationwide civil unrest,
contentious elections, and an unprecedented and unwarranted backlash against law
enforcement. In 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was recognized by The Commercial
Appeal with a Memphis Area Top Workplace Award.
Prior to his appointment as U.S. Attorney, Mr. Dunavant served as the elected District
Attorney General for the 25th Judicial District of Tennessee from 2006-2017. For 11
years prior to that, he was a partner in the law firm of Carney, Wilder & Dunavant in
Effective March 1, First Assistant United States Attorney Joe Murphy will succeed
Dunavant as the Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee
pursuant to the Vacancies Reform Act.