16 People Charged In Drug Conspiracy, Accused Of Distributing Heroin And Other Drugs In AreaAnother Person, A Police Officer, Has Been Indicted In A Related Case,Accused Of Tampering With Investigation
WASHINGTON –Seventeen people, including a Prince George’s County, Md., police officer, have been indicted on federal charges in connection with an ongoing investigation by the FBI/Metropolitan Police Department Safe Streets Task Force into a network that distributed heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and prescription pills in the Washington, D.C. area.
The charges were announced today by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
The defendants, most of whom were arrested this week, are named in a pair of indictments returned on July 11, 2013, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The indictments were unsealed today.
One indictment charges 16 defendants – 14 men and two women - with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, PCP, marijuana, and methamphetamines. The indictment against these defendants also includes a forfeiture allegation seeking all proceeds derived from the crimes, as well as assets used to commit the offenses.
The police officer, Vanessa Edwards-Hamm, 38, is named in the second indictment. She was charged with one count of tampering with documents or proceedings and one count of unlawful notice of electronic surveillance. According to the indictment, she alerted another person or persons of electronic surveillance in an effort to obstruct, impede and prevent the investigation. Hamm was arrested Monday and appeared in court later that afternoon. She was released on personal recognizance pending further court proceedings.
The drug conspiracy charge carries a statutory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years of incarceration. Edwards-Hamm faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison on the charge of tampering with documents and proceedings and up to five years on the charge of providing unlawful notice of electronic surveillance.
The drug conspiracy indictment alleges that the 16 defendants conspired to carry out the drug operation from December 2011 through July of this year, when it was broken up by law enforcement. According to the government’s evidence, the drugs were distributed in the Potomac Gardens and Hopkins housing complexes in Southeast Washington, as well as in Prince George’s County, Md., and locations in northern Virginia.
“In this case, a police officer sworn to uphold the law is accused of undermining law enforcement by revealing covert electronic surveillance,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “That officer has been charged along with a far-reaching criminal network that distributed heroin, cocaine, and PCP through the D.C. area. This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to holding accountable drug dealers and the people who enable their illicit activities."
“With this week’s arrests, drug dealers who enjoyed a rich network to ply their trade within Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia have been removed from our neighborhoods and taken into custody,” said Assistant Director in Charge Parlave. “Along with our law enforcement partners and through the Safe Streets Task Force, the FBI is focused on stopping the movement and sale of drugs on our streets and bringing those who profit from it to justice.”
“This community has been plagued with drugs and violence for quite some time,” said Police Chief Lanier. “The Metropolitan Police Department and our federal law enforcement partners have made significant strides to make our communities safer. This case is an example of our dedication to remove illicit drugs and criminals from our neighborhoods.”
The Prince George’s County, Md. Police Department assisted in Monday’s arrest of Edwards-Hamm. “If these allegations are proven true, they are solely the actions of one person,” said Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark A. Magaw. “They do not represent the good works of the men and women of the Prince George’s County Police Department as a whole.”
All told, eleven defendants were arrested in a series of arrests that began on Monday, including seven who were taken into custody today. They include Edwards-Hamm; her brother, Mark Edwards, 39, of Capitol Heights, Md.; Brian Bauer, 38, of Culpeper, Va.; Joshua Brown, 37, of Culpeper, Va.; Jerome Cobble, 31, of Alexandria, Va., and his father, Roger Cobble, 55, of District Heights, Md.; Sean Douglas, 46, of Washington, D.C.; Alonzo Fields, 51, of Washington, D.C. ; Calvin Stoddard, 35, of Washington, D.C., Melvin Sugg, 68, of Landover, Md. , and Sidney Woodruff, Sr., 58, of Washington, D.C.
Three defendants already were in custody: Donald Jenkins, 32, of Culpeper, Va., Jonathan Marshall, 38, of Brandy Station, Va., and Sandra Settle, 31, of Rixeyville, Va. Two men and a woman are being sought.
Many of the defendants made their first court appearances in the case this afternoon.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
This prosecution grew out of a long-term FBI/MPD alliance called the Safe Streets Task Force that targets violent drug trafficking gangs in the District of Columbia. The Safe Streets Initiative is funded in part by the Baltimore Washington High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area as well as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The initiative involves more than 150 Safe Streets Task Forces across the country that combat street gangs by combining federal, state and local police resources. The task forces, which began in 1992 in Los Angeles and the District of Columbia, address gang activity, including drug-related crimes.
In announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Director Parlave and Chief Lanier expressed appreciation for those who pursued the investigation from the FBI/MPD Safe Streets Task Force. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Prince George's County, Md., and Culpeper, Va. police departments as well as the U.S. Marshals Service and the Charlottesville Resident Agency of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office.
In addition, they acknowledged the efforts of those who are working on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Teesha Tobias and Starla Stolk; Program Specialist Kim Hall, and Legal Assistants Diane Brashears and Jessica Moffatt. Finally, they thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth F. Whitted and David B. Kent of the Violent Crime and Narcotics Trafficking Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Arvind K. Lal, Catherine K. Connelly and Zia Faruqui, of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.