Leader of Eastern Ky. cocaine ring gets life in prison

LONDON — A Bosnian war refugee who headed one of the largest cocaine rings ever prosecuted in the federal Eastern District of Kentucky must serve life in prison, a judge said Tuesday.

Emir Dadanovic, the drug ringleader, oversaw the importing of at least 300 kilograms — 660 pounds — of cocaine from connections in Mexico and sold it in six states, federal authorities said.

A jury convicted Dadanovic for running a continuing criminal enterprise that grossed at least $10 million in one year.

Dadanovic's group probably sold far more than 300 kilograms of cocaine, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Dotson, who prosecuted the case.

U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey said in a news release that evidence indicated the organization received 100 to 200 kilograms of cocaine a month, moving it in vehicles that contained hidden compartments for drugs and guns.

Dadanovic, 29, lived in Indianapolis, but one of the top lieutenants in his organization, Kemal Dugalic, lived in London and helped distribute drugs in Kentucky and elsewhere, according to court documents.

Dadanovic's group distributed cocaine and some marijuana in Louisville, London and Bowling Green in Kentucky, and in Chicago; Nashville; Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; and Charleston, W.Va., prosecutors said.

The ring operated from July 2007 to October 2009, according to an indictment.

The London office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration headed the investigation of the drug ring, and the case was prosecuted in federal court in London.

At a hearing Tuesday, Dadanovic's attorney, Steven R. Romines, asked U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar to sentence Dadanovic to 20 years in prison.

Romines said in a motion that Dadanovic is not a violent person and has two young children.

He asked Thapar to impose a sentence that would give Dadanovic a chance to resume his life outside of prison.

Dotson, however, argued that Dadanovic was exactly the kind of drug kingpin Congress intended to put behind bars for life when it passed the law on operating a continuing criminal enterprise.

Drugs the enterprise sold hurt countless people, Dotson said.

"It would be difficult, if not impossible, to couch the amount of damage that a drug conspiracy of this extent would cause in the United States," Dotson said.

Dotson said Dadanovic "wanted to be a gangster, and that's the kind of lifestyle he lived."

Thapar agreed there was sufficient justification to sentence Dadanovic to life.

There is no parole in the federal prison system.

Twelve people were indicted as part of the drug ring. Many were Bosnians who left their country during the war there in the early 1990s.

Thapar sentenced Dugalic, 29, to 30 years and five months in prison and his brother Omer Dugalic, 31, of Columbus, Ohio, to 31 years and eight months.

Dadanovic and the Dugalics were the top three people in the drug ring, Dotson said.