FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
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Maryland Man Pleads Guilty to Drug Conspiracy Charges
Following Investigation into Drug Trafficking Ring
- He and Others Operated Near Seventh and O Streets NW, Other Locations -
WASHINGTON - Keith Gaston, 40, pled guilty today to taking part in a drug trafficking ring that operated in the Washington, D.C. area, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Gaston, formerly of Silver Spring, Md., pled guilty this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute powder and crack cocaine. The Honorable Reggie B. Walton scheduled sentencing for June 20, 2012. Gaston faces a minimum mandatory sentence of ten years in prison and a statutory maximum of life in prison. As part of his plea, Gaston agreed to the forfeiture of $1 million as proceeds constituting or derived from the drug trafficking activities, which includes $559,068 in cash that was seized by authorities from his apartment at the time of his arrest.
Gaston was among 17 people arrested last year following their indictments in August 2011 on conspiracy and other charges. The indictments followed a nearly three-year investigation by the FBI and MPD into the trafficking of cocaine, cocaine base, and marijuana. The ring’s activities primarily occurred in the area surrounding Seventh and O Streets NW and in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Gaston, who was alleged to be a leader of the ring, was arrested on August 9, 2011, and has been in custody ever since.
Following the return of the indictment, law enforcement officers executed a series of arrest and search warrants in the District of Columbia and Maryland during the early morning hours of August 9, 2011, confiscating approximately one-half kilogram of cocaine, one-quarter kilogram of crack cocaine, and one pound of marijuana. In addition, the officers seized four vehicles, more than $600,000 in cash, and six firearms, including two machine pistols.
As part of his guilty plea, Gaston admitted that between August 2009 and August 2011 he was engaged in a conspiracy to distribute powder cocaine and crack cocaine. He also acknowledged that he coordinated efforts for at least two years to purchase kilogram quantities of cocaine from various suppliers or distributors in the Washington, D.C., area. In addition, he acknowledged that he sold various quantities of cocaine to other individuals who he was aware were reselling these same or similar quantities of cocaine to other drug dealers in the area, or were reselling smaller quantities of cocaine to drug abusers as powder cocaine and crack cocaine.
Another leader of the organization, Espey Brown, 37, of Washington, D.C., pled guilty on February 22, 2012 to two federal charges in the case. Brown is to be sentenced on May 22, 2012.
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 guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin and Chief Lanier commended the work of the FBI and MPD members of the task force who investigated the case. They also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, and the Prince George’s County Police Department, all of which provided assistance.
They also cited the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, including Legal Assistant Diane Brashears, Program Specialist Kim Hall, and Paralegal Specialist Teesha Tobias. They also thanked the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is assisting in the investigation and prosecution. Finally they expressed appreciation to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth F. Whitted, Emily Scruggs, and Seth Adam Meinero, who are prosecuting the case.