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Belize drug dealer sentenced to 17 years in federal prison

A Belize man involved in a drug run from Mexico to Columbus was sentenced in Federal Court today. The man and his two brothers recruited young people from the area to smuggle cocaine and marijuana in oversized sneakers.

Duane Seawell shuffled into federal court this afternoon - shackled at the waist, hands and feet. Judge James Graham sentenced Seawell to 17 years in federal prison for drug charges and money laundering. Seawell pleaded guilty in July after a 10-year federal investigation. Federal prosecutors say Seawell and his two brothers, Mark and Gary, concocted an elaborate drug run from Belize to Columbus that started in the mid-1990s. The three brothers recruited young men and women from central Ohio for the job. The drug runners, many of them young women, smuggled up to two pounds of cocaine in hollowed out tennis shoes. Customs agents caught on to the scheme after they noticed the women having a hard time walking in men's shoes up to size 13.

Graham called this case "rather unusual." Graham said Seawell and his brothers smuggled $1 million worth of cocaine into the U.S. over the years. And he said their drug conspiracy adversely affected many young people's lives, many of whom also served time in prison for their involvement.

Seawell's attorney Diane Menashe felt 17 years was too harsh.

"I thought that there was a number of factors that supported a downward deviation, particularly the defendants lack of prior criminal record which is pretty rare particularly of someone with this level of criminal involvement to have no record whatsoever, it's pretty noteworthy. And he also has no addiction issues and other things that aren't common with defendants. Had a history of being employed, did have some college education, seemed to have a lot of good things going for him. Of course it seemed that the judge almost turned that against him," Menashe said.

Menashe said she will speak with Seawell about an appeal. Seawell's brother Mark is in custody in Belize fight extradition. The other brother, Gary, is at large.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robyn Hones Hahnert declined comment.