FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 13, 2013
For Information Contact:
Thirteen Men Indicted in Drug Conspiracy Case,
Accused of Distributing Heroin and Cocaine in Washington Area
-Charges Follow a Year-Long Investigation-
WASHINGTON –Eleven men have been arrested on federal charges stemming from an
ongoing investigation into a drug trafficking organization that distributed large amounts of heroin and cocaine in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. To date, over 3.5 kilograms of cocaine and over two kilograms of heroin have been seized as a result of the investigation, along with more than $68,000 in cash and at least five firearms. Two men remain at large.
The arrests, on Dec. 12, 2013, followed the return of an indictment by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They 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 arrests came as authorities executed 26 search warrants on Dec. 12, 2013, in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. Several firearms, cocaine and heroin, jewelry worth over $60,000 and thousands in cash were seized during the law enforcement activities. Also recovered from within one residence was evidence of an apparent identity theft operation involving hundreds of credit cards, social security cards and driver’s licenses.
The indictment also includes a forfeiture count against all of those now charged in the investigation, which seeks all proceeds from the crimes. All 11 defendants made their first court appearances this week and are being held without bond pending detention hearings.
“This investigation shows our resolve to target organizations that are bringing cocaine, heroin and other dangerous drugs into the District of Columbia,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Law enforcement was able to remove guns, drugs and dangerous people from the streets and take another step toward making our community safer.”
“These arrests are a result of the concentrated efforts by Special Agents and Detectives from the FBI Washington, Baltimore and Los Angeles Field Offices, MPD and Prince George's County, Maryland, Police Department who partner together to disrupt and dismantle drug networks that threaten our neighborhoods,” said Assistant Director in Charge Parlave. “Together, we are focused on stopping the movement and sale of drugs on our streets and we will bring those who profit from it to justice.”
“This investigation spanned the region including Washington, D.C., Prince George's County, Md., Baltimore, and Stafford, Va.,” said Police Chief Lanier. “This is a great example of us working with our federal partners to arrest those who supply our neighborhoods with illicit drugs.”
The charges arose from a year-long investigation by the FBI into people suspected of acting as wholesale distributors of heroin and cocaine in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The investigation determined that from at least January 2013 through November 2013, the defendants maintained a drug trafficking organization that supplied distribution amounts of heroin and cocaine to drug dealers in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. During the course of the investigation, agents seized three separate packages found to contain large quantities of both heroin and cocaine, which had been shipped or were destined to arrive in the Washington, D.C., area from sources located in California.
Those arrested include Lester Pryor, 62, of Washington, D.C., who is alleged to have supplied cocaine and heroin to the other defendants named in the indictment. The others include Patrick Avent, 45, of Stafford, Va.; George Ball, 65, of Washington, D.C.; Brandon Beale, 58, of Washington, D.C.; Aubrey Bennett, 61, of Washington, D.C.; James Burkley, 59, of Washington, D.C; Anthony McDuffie, 50, of Washington, D.C.; Chris Merriweather, 47, of Washington, D.C.; Earl Owens, 56, of Bowie, Md.; Tyrone Payton, 55, of Temple Hills, Md.; and Kevin Whitman, 54, of Washington, D.C.
The prosecution grew out of the efforts of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a multi-agency team that conducts comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the nationwide program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
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.
In announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Director in Charge Parlave and Chief Lanier commended the work of the agents at the FBI, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who investigated the case. They also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of Maryland, the Eastern District of Virginia and the Central District of California, the FBI’s Baltimore and Los Angeles Divisions, MPD and the Prince George’s County police and sheriff’s departments, which provided assistance.
Finally they cited the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, including Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven B. Wasserman, Anthony Scarpelli, Jin Park, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia A. Stewart, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Saler, who assisted with the forfeiture aspects of the investigation.