ALBANY — A Moultrie man was convicted in federal court Tuesday on drug charges, according to the justice department.

Samuel Howard, 26, of Moultrie was found guilty of two counts of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement.

He was convicted in a bench trial before Judge Louis Sands. There have been no other trials in the Valdosta federal district since social distancing rules took effect to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement said. A bench trial is heard before the judge alone with no jury.

Howard faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and could get as much as a life sentence, the justice department said.

Howard was first arrested in possession of 82.5 grams of “ice” methamphetamine on October 11, 2016. A confidential source notified a Thomas County-Thomasville Narcotics agent that a man known as “Cruze” would be delivering a large quantity of methamphetamine to a person on North Church Street in Meigs within the hour, the statement said. Agents found Howard with the packaged methamphetamine, as well as a scale with methamphetamine residue, numerous empty plastic sandwich bags and $1,819 in cash, according to the statement.

Howard was again arrested on April 26, 2018, this time with 225 grams of “ice” methamphetamine; a confidential source texted Howard to meet him at a McDonald’s restaurant in Adel to purchase meth, the justice department said.

Howard was taken into custody at that McDonald’s in possession of meth, the statement said.

“This defendant acted brazenly, continuing to push more and more methamphetamine into our communities even after his first arrest. Criminal drug dealers face severe punishment in the federal system, including life without parole,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “I want to thank the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Thomas County-Thomasville Narcotics Unit for their excellent work in this case.”

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