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Man sentenced in robbery spree that included $30,000 in narcotics from Gainesville pharmacy

A Rome man was sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison for a spree of armed robberies on pharmacies including the South Enota Drive Walgreens in Gainesville, according to court officials.

Anthony Lavell Williams Jr., 28, was sentenced Wednesday, Nov. 10, for robberies that spanned five counties including Hall. He pleaded guilty in August to five counts of interference with commerce by robbery and armed robbery involving controlled substances.

“Driven by greed, Anthony Williams terrorized our community and sought to profit off of the opioid epidemic,” Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine said in a news release. “This epidemic tragically claims many American lives every year.  A multi-agency response at all levels of government and from every corner of this district has brought him to justice.”

Williams was accused of five pharmacy robberies between May-July 2020 in Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cobb and Hall counties, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Williams escaped with approximately $9,600 in cash and more than $183,000 of controlled substances,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “The pharmacies’ losses were eclipsed by the street value of the stolen drugs, which included but was not limited to nearly 44,000 doses of opioids and more than 5,700 tablets containing amphetamine.”

One of the last incidents mentioned in Williams’ indictment is the July 7, 2020, robbery at the South Enota Drive Walgreens in Gainesville.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Williams was accused of grabbing a customer by her hair, forcing her and a cashier at gunpoint to the pharmacy section.

The customer and cashier were forced to unlock the safes and load a backpack with drugs after Williams told them to leave their cellphones, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Authorities said Williams took $1,820 in cash and roughly $30,000 of opioid narcotics, which were identified in the indictment as hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, tapentadol and morphine.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not specify how Williams was apprehended, and The Times has reached out to the Gainesville Police Department to learn more about the subsequent investigation.

Following his time in prison, Williams will be on supervised release for five years and must pay $192,983.77 in restitution.

Saying that her client regretted his actions, defense attorney Melissa McGrane wrote in a sentencing memo that the “hope of attaining financial stability for his family” led Williams to rob the pharmacies.

“Now he truly understands that the only way he can support his family is to improve his skills to obtain stable employment, but finding stable employment was no small feat,” McGrane wrote. 

McGrane wrote that Williams’ criminal conduct early in life “was the result of bad social influences and a desire to provide for his sister and himself.”

Williams’ fiancee wrote in a letter to the judge that her anxiety “has been at an all time high since his incarceration.”

“Every day without him is a struggle,” she wrote. “I didn’t realize how significant his role is in our lives until he wasn’t able to be here anymore. He’s a natural provider and protector. He always made sure to lessen my burden and take weight off of my shoulders.”