February 09, 2015
Contact: Brian McNeal
Phone Number: (571) 362-1498
Kalamazoo Man Receives Life Sentence In Federal Prison For Methamphetamine And Witness Tampering Conspiracy
Francis Block ran one of the largest meth trafficking organizations ever in West Michigan
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles announced today that Francis Block, 45, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was sentenced to life in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney for various drug and witness tampering charges. Block was convicted following a four-day jury trial that concluded on October 2, 2014.
In 2012, officers of the Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement (KVET), with the assistance of the U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA), initiated “Operation Roadblock,” an investigation of methamphetamine trafficking by Block and his known associates. In January 2013, the investigators executed a warrant to search Block’s residence in Cooper Township, Michigan, and seized methamphetamine lab components, $29,800 in U.S. currency, and multiple firearms. Later in 2013, investigators learned that Block likely had connections with methamphetamine suppliers directly linked to Mexican drug cartels.
On October 23, 2013, KVET and DEA special agents arrested Block during his attempted sale of four ounces of methamphetamine. Subsequently, five search warrants were executed at homes and premises around Kalamazoo, including a storage unit on Stadium Drive utilized by Block and several of his drug trafficking associates. At one Kalamazoo residence officers located and seized in excess of one pound of methamphetamine and nearly $20,000 in U.S. currency. At the Stadium Drive storage unit they located nine additional pounds of methamphetamine. The Stadium Drive seizure was KVET’s largest-ever methamphetamine seizure.
The investigation continued and between late 2013 and early 2014, five additional confederates of Block’s were charged with federal and state drug felonies. One defendant, Scott Webber of Kalamazoo, Michigan, fled prosecution and remains a fugitive. The grand jury later indicted Block and his sister, Elizabeth McNett, on witness tampering charges. These charges were filed after investigators uncovered evidence that revealed Block and McNett plotted to hire a convicted murderer to firebomb an informant’s car and intimidate government witnesses.
With the exception of Webber, all of Block’s co-defendants pleaded guilty to one or more federal charges. The co-defendants received the following sentences:
Jeffrey Starrett, 43, of Kalamazoo, Michigan: 60 months in custody;
Michael Head, 39, of Kalamazoo, Michigan: 84 months in custody;
Martin McCaul, 52, of Paw Paw, Michigan: 48 months in custody;
Elizabeth McNett, 44, of Lawton, Michigan: 33 months in custody.
Block was the only defendant to take his case to trial, which was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heath M. Lynch and Sean M. Lewis. Following the trial, at which all of Block’s convicted co-defendants testified against him, the jury found Block guilty of all charges.
On Monday, February 9th, Chief Judge Maloney sentenced Block to serve life in prison. Judge Maloney stated that the case represented “one of the largest methamphetamine distribution operations in the history of our district, and Mr. Block was the leader of it.” Commenting on Block’s recorded phone calls introduced at trial as evidence of Block’s witness tampering efforts, Judge Maloney noted Block’s “contempt for the system” and described being “flabbergasted” that Block was “so self-centered and egotistical that he brought his own sister into the conspiracy.”
In sentencing Block to life in prison and denying Block’s motion for a shorter sentence, Judge Maloney stated that he “did not find any mitigating factors” and described Block’s criminal history as that of “an individual who is either unwilling or unable to reform himself.” According to Judge Maloney, no criminal sentence served by Block “managed to convey to Mr. Block that he should stop dealing drugs.”