A former U.S. Army soldier was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in trafficking ketamine and money laundering from his profits. 

Gordon Ray Custis was sentenced this week, the Department of Justice announced, following a guilty plea in September. The sentencing came after an investigation following Custis’ initial arrest three years ago uncovered a wider drug trafficking scheme. 

Custis, 26, was indicted last spring on charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute ketamine, as well as laundering more than $700,000 in money from that distribution. Custis had previously served in the U.S. Army at Fort Liberty, formerly known as Fort Bragg. 

“This fifteen-year sentence is a warning to any member of our armed services who thinks they can engage in drug-trafficking and money-laundering while wearing the uniform. American troops are the greatest fighting force in the world’s history, and we are proud to partner with the Army to ensure integrity in the ranks,” U.S. Attorney Michael Easley said in a statement. 

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Authorities first started investigating Custis in 2021. In May of that year, the Department of Homeland Security received a tip from France that it had found a package of ketamine bound for Custis’ address. In addition to Homeland Security, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and Army Criminal Investigative Division investigated Custis, leading to him being arrested. At the time he was an active-duty soldier. He pled guilty in November 2022 and was released on bail pending sentencing. 

While awaiting sentencing, Custis kept up his criminal activities, according to an Army CID complaint filed in court. He texted others about plans to sell and distribute ketamine. Additional investigation uncovered a wider money laundering plot. In February 2023 authorities searched Custis’ home, finding more than 60 pounds of drugs, more than $164,000 in cash and various drug-related tools such as scales and vacuum sealing machines. According to the Department of Justice, Custis and others used cryptocurrency to purchase ketamine from Cameroon and attempted to launder money in cryptocurrency. 

In addition to Custis and his wife, an Army sergeant, and a Virginia resident were also indicted as part of the drug money laundering plot. 

Although Custis was out of the Army at the time of his arrest on money laundering charges, his wife Shabrea Chantel Bright was not. She was an active-duty soldiers, stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, according to the Fayetteville Observer. She pled not guilty in November 2023 and is awaiting trial. She faces multiple counts related to money laundering, as well as making false statements to federal authorities and conspiracy to distribute ketamine.  

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