Twenty-Six Charged With Operating Major Peninsula Drug Trafficking Ring
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Twenty-six alleged members of a major drug trafficking ring operating throughout the Virginia Peninsula were charged in federal court today following coordinated arrests that began early this morning as part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation dubbed “Dragon’s Lair.”
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Karl C. Colder, Special Agent in Charge for Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division; and James D. Fox, Chief of Newport News Police, made the announcement after the court documents were unsealed.
“After law enforcement dismantled the major heroin trafficking rings in Tidewater, this organization allegedly stepped in to fill the demand,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Since last October, at least four more people have overdosed on heroin and died on the Peninsula. Today’s charges are part of an ongoing effort to go after those who traffic these highly addictive and dangerous drugs that threaten our communities.”
“Operation Dragons Lair targeted what we allege to be an extremely violent cocaine and heroin drug trafficking organization operating in the Newport News and Hampton Roads areas of Virginia for more than a decade” stated DEA SAC Colder. “This investigation exemplifies how positive working relationships can result in removing violent offenders from our streets.”
“This is yet another example of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors working as a team to identify, arrest and prosecute those we allege are involved in the distribution of extremely dangerous illegal drugs” said Chief Fox. “While this operation seeks to put a large dent in the heroin distribution in this area, the good citizens of Hampton Roads can rest assured that this team of dedicated professionals will continue to identify and bring to justice those who are poisoning the community with illegal drugs.”
Those arrested this morning will make their initial appearance at 3 p.m. in the Norfolk federal courthouse before United States Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller.
The charges were unsealed today in two separate, but related, charging documents. Christopher Devon Barrett, 26, of Hampton, Va., and 12 alleged co-conspirators were charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, 280 grams or more of crack cocaine and one kilogram or more of heroin. The criminal complaint alleges that the group originally trafficked crack cocaine and firearms since at least 2005, but recently branched out into selling heroin as a result of the successful arrest and prosecution of Peninsula groups involved in distributing heroin.
In September 2008, a prisoner at the Newport News City Farm died in a heroin overdose. That death spurred law enforcement to intensify their focus on the threat posed from heroin abuse within the Virginia Peninsula, which resulted in the federal prosecution of more than 70 defendants and the dismantling of three separate heroin drug trafficking organizations. The criminal complaint unsealed today states that as part of this ongoing investigation, agents are investigating at least four heroin overdose deaths that have occurred on the Virginia Peninsula since October 2012.
Barrett is alleged to be the leader of this violent drug trafficking organization, arranging for suppliers and running the day-to-day affairs of the conspiracy from the Colonial Landing Apartment complex in Hampton, Va.
Those charged today with Barrett include the following individuals:
- Wayne Dominique Barrett, 24, of Newport News, Va., and Demetrius Deangelo Askew, 31, of Hampton, Va. are alleged to be lieutenants in the criminal organization.
- Donald Lorenzo Smith, 29, Newport News, Va., Jetadia Sirica Cook, 35, of Newport News, Va., Stacy Ray Wise, 26, of Newport News, Va., Darryl Michael Elliott, 46, of Hampton, Va., Dominic Donte Walker, 26, of Hampton, Va., and Timothy Ray Alexander, 42, of Hampton, Va., are alleged to be mid-level distributors for the criminal organization.
- William Lewis Cofield, Sr., 58, of Hampton, Va., Larry Daniel Stokes, 55, of Hampton, Va., and Warren Lester Tribble, 62, of Hampton, Va. are alleged to be lower level distributors that sold narcotics and facilitated the activities of the criminal organization by transporting members of the conspiracy and narcotics from one location to another, and by allowing their residences to be used to package, store and distribute narcotics.
- Andrea Lanell Barrett, 24, of Newport News, Va., is the sister of Christopher Barrett, and is alleged to broker sales of narcotics and store firearms for the criminal organization. She is also alleged to facilitate the activities of the organization by renting cars for members of the drug trafficking organization.
Each individual charged by the criminal complaint faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison, if convicted.
In addition to those charged as alleged members of the Barrett drug trafficking organization, in a related indictment also unsealed today Steven Lavonne Morris, 38, of Newport News, Va., is alleged to be the leader of a cocaine drug trafficking organization supplied by sources in New York City and Atlanta, Ga. The indictment alleges that Morris obtained kilogram quantities of cocaine in New York and Atlanta, and supervised the transport of the cocaine to the Virginia Peninsula. The criminal organization generally paid from $40,000 to $44,000 per kilogram for cocaine. According to the Barrett criminal complaint, Morris and Barrett conspired with each other to purchase cocaine through the same sources in New York and distribute it throughout Tidewater. On Feb. 23, 2013, Morris and three others were arrested in a parking lot on West Mercury Boulevard, Hampton, Va., allegedly in possession of approximately 900 grams of cocaine. Agents allegedly located approximately $87,918 in U.S. currency at Morris’s residence later that evening.
Those indicted with Morris and charged with conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 280 grams or more of crack cocaine include:
- Jonathan Holguin, 24, of New York, N.Y. and Edwin Fernandez, 28, of New York, N.Y., are alleged to be cocaine suppliers to Morris and the members of this conspiracy.
- Frederick Lavan Womack, 34, of Hampton, Va., is alleged to be a lieutenant in the Morris drug trafficking organization, traveling with Morris to New York City and converting cocaine powder into crack cocaine at Morris’s direction.
- Bradley Maurice Cephas, 38, of Newport News, Va.; James King Artis, II, 38, of Hampton, Va.; Aaron Evan Smith, 31, of Yorktown, Va.; Christopher Michael Flowers, 40, of Hampton, Va.; Leroy Cornelius Bugg, 33, of Hampton, Va.; and Arthur Gadsden, Jr., 41, of Newport News, Va., are alleged to be mid-level distributors who provided the drugs to street-level distributors and customers.
- James Vincent Taylor; 30, of Hampton, Va.; Alesha Dubrey Cousins; 30, of Hampton, Va.; and Tinesha Monica Dubrey, 31, of Hampton, Va., allegedly served as facilitators and couriers for Morris’s drug trafficking organization.
Each individual charged in the indictment faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison, if convicted.
This OCDETF operation was led by the DEA Hampton Post of Duty. The investigative team included the Newport News Police Department, the Newport News Sheriff’s Department, the Virginia State Police, and the Hampton Police Division. Assistant United States Attorney Laura Tayman is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
The public is reminded that an indictment and a criminal complaint only contain charges and are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.