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Elderly drug mule gets 12 years in federal prison

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A granny drug mule was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison Wednesday for hauling cocaine across the country while helping a former Young Boys Inc. drug gang member build a new narcotics empire.

Cheryl Cheatham

Cheryl Cheatham, 64, of Phoenix, Ariz., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy 14 months after she made international headlines by flying into Detroit with 17 kilograms of cocaine in her luggage.

Cheatham was a key cocaine courier for accused drug kingpin Darryl Terrell, a former Young Boys Inc. member who prosecutors say applied a sophisticated business acumen to build a drug empire in Detroit that imported cocaine from Arizona and generated millions in profits.

Darryl Terrell

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation emerged publicly in October 2016. That’s when Cheatham, who has a history of convictions for petty crime, was arrested in Detroit after taking a red-eye flight from Las Vegas to Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Cheatham, who lives in Phoenix, fetched two large suitcases from the Delta baggage claim and hailed a taxi for a Westin hotel in Southfield.

Agents followed her to the hotel. She didn’t stay long.

Cheatham soon climbed into a hotel shuttle after loading the two large suitcases and headed into Detroit.

Investigators stopped the hotel shuttle on Southfield Road, near Fenkell Avenue. Agents believe the shuttle was destined for Mansfield Street, a few blocks east of the traffic stop, where investigators knew there were a trio of stash houses — locations prosecutors say Terrell’s drug ring hid narcotics and money.

After a trooper stopped the Lincoln Navigator, Michigan State Police K-9 Officer Otto took a whiff of the SUV and indicated drugs were inside the vehicle.

A trooper checked Cheatham’s luggage. Investigators found two bundles containing a total of 17 kilograms of cocaine worth $595,000.

Flight records and cellphone data would help DEA agents identify the boss.

After the arrest, Cheatham asked agents to let her call her daughter.

Agents checked the number in her phone and were intrigued when they read the contact name.

Jerome Terrell

The contact read “Lover Boy.”

Investigators managed to identify “Lover Boy.”

They say he is Darryl Terrell’s son Jerome Terrell, 27, of West Bloomfield, who also faces federal drug charges alongside his father and other relatives.

The case against the Terrells is pending in federal court.

rsnell@detnews.com

(313) 222-2486

Twitter: @robertsnellnews