on November 19, 2013 - 5:18 PM
, updated November 20, 2013 at 10:22 AM
Theresa Anderson sold drugs day and night.
So did her husband, son and three daughters.
And yes, even her granddaughter.
It was a family business so unique it attracted the attention of the nation’s biggest newspapers and TV networks.
Anderson, the family matriarch turned ring leader, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in federal prison.
“She devastated her whole family,” U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara said in giving her the maximum sentence allowed under federal guidelines. “She destroyed her whole family."
Anderson, 57, is the latest family member to go to prison for taking part in what prosecutors called the Anderson Drug Trafficking Organization.
It was a criminal enterprise, they say, that operated for more than a decade in Buffalo’s Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood and at times was so busy it resembled a “McDonald’s Drive Thru.”
“She involved her entire family in selling drugs and in controlling that neighborhood,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa M. Marangola.
Anderson’s sentencing – she pleaded guilty earlier this year to distributing cocaine base – was not her first appearance before Arcara.
In 2004, the judge sentenced her to probation in connection with a separate drug case, but she was arrested again a year later and this time, got 21 months in prison. “You can go on and on with her record,” Arcara said Tuesday.
Even before her prosecutions in federal court, Anderson stood trial for murder in state court. She was charged in 1980 with killing a man who was fighting with her then-boyfriend, but was later acquitted by a jury.
“Since the age of 14, she’s been actively participating in drugs,” said Robert Ross Fogg, Anderson’s defense lawyer. “This is something she’s been battling for some time.”
Anderson, who seemed visibly shaken by Arcara’s comments about her family, said she was too nervous to talk so Fogg instead read from a letter she wrote to the judge.
“I’m an addict,” she wrote. “I’m just a person who was consumed by my addiction.”
Anderson, who has acknowledged her lead role in the cocaine ring, is the latest family member to go to prison.
Her husband, Melvin Calhoun, was sentenced to 41 months, and her granddaughter, Tajia Anderson, was given 24 months.
One of her three daughters, Toshia Hodge, was sentenced to probation and three other family members – a son, Dion Anderson, and two other daughters, Wymiko Anderson and Anquensha Hodge – are currently awaiting sentencing.
“What’s sad about this,” Arcara said, “is the large organization involved.”
The unique prosecution of Anderson and her family has resulted in news accounts from across the country, including stories in the Washington Post and New York Daily News, as well as reports by CBS and Fox News.
Here in Buffalo, she has been portrayed as the leader of a criminal enterprise that operated “24-7” and thrived because it employed family members who would never turn her in.
Investigators said it was Anderson who purchased several homes on Deshler Street to sell drugs and who often stationed paid lookouts in those houses.
Police say she was so bold, she once followed an undercover narcotics car around her East Side turf.
Her neighbors, meanwhile, have mixed views of the woman who owned several properties in the neighborhood.
Some say her presence kept their neighborhood safe while others suggest her drug dealing is why St. John Kanty School on Swinburne Street, a neighborhood institution, closed several years ago.
One thing is clear. Her luck changed in February of 2012 when seven SWAT teams led by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Buffalo police raided 15 drug houses and arrested her and most of her family.