St. Paul man sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after guilty plea in Eau Claire cocaine bust

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MADISON (WKBT) — A 50-year-old St. Paul man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Monday for possessing more than 500 grams of cocaine with the intent to distribute discovered when he was stopped for speeding in Eau Claire.

Lashawn M. Bennett, who pleaded guilty on Jan. 11, also must undergo five years of supervised release after his prison term.

The charge traces to an incident on March 17, 2021, when a Wisconsin State Patrol trooper stopped the vehicle Bennett was driving in Eau Claire. After the trooper detected the odor of marijuana, officers searching the vehicle found a large black bag containing three individually wrapped bricks of cocaine, according to the criminal complaint. The cocaine weighed about 7.5 pounds.

When officers interviewed Bennett, he admitted to possessing and transporting three kilograms of cocaine with the intent to distribute it.

At the time of the incident, Bennett was on state probation in Wisconsin for cocaine trafficking and in Minnesota for a prostitution offense. His probation in Wisconsin was revoked, and he is serving a re-confinement sentence of nine years in state prison.

Upon sentencing Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson ordered that the federal sentence be run concurrently with the state prison term.

Peterson cited the quantity of cocaine involved and Bennett’s criminal history, which included both prior state and federal cocaine trafficking convictions, as highly aggravating factors. Bennett exhibited a pattern of continuing to return to drug trafficking, the judge said.

The charge against Bennett was the result of an investigation conducted by the Wisconsin State Patrol and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The Eau Claire County District Attorney’s Office provided assistance in the case.

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