Ringleader in Southern Maryland Cocaine Conspiracy Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison
Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte, sentenced Rodney Matthew Estep, a/k/a “Barney Fife,” age 35, of Mechanicsville, Maryland, today to 14 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and fifty grams, or more, of crack cocaine, money laundering, and conducting an illegal gambling business.
Judge Messitte also ordered the forfeiture of vehicles, jewelry, and over $50,256 in cash, including a black Chevrolet Camaro race car; two custom race engines; a 2007 red custom motor-cycle; and 30 rounds of 9mm ammunition.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Ava Cooper-Davis of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Washington Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron; Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans; Charles County Sheriff Rex Coffey; and Interim Chief Mark Magaw of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
“Our goal is to prosecute drug dealers, send them away to serve lengthy terms in federal prisons far from home and seize any cash, vehicles, jewelry and other property purchased with criminal profits,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “This sentence demonstrates that we have been successful through a sustained effort by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to pursue southern Maryland drug dealers who qualify for federal prosecution, an initiative that has yielded federal convictions of at least 63 defendants in the region since 2006.”
According to Estep’s guilty plea, beginning in at least September 2006 through September 2009, Estep received kilogram quantities of cocaine from sources of supply Maryland, Georgia, and elsewhere. The cocaine was then smuggled into St. Mary’s County, Maryland, where Estep and others distributed the cocaine and crack cocaine from a number of locations, including properties in Morganza and Mechanicsville, Maryland, utilized by Estep.
During the conspiracy, a number of Estep’s co-conspirators were identified during court-authorized wiretap intercepts of thousands of calls to and from several of Estep’s cellular phones, which he used to conduct his drug trafficking business. Estep was heard directing his subordinates to collect monies owed to Estep from the sale of cocaine and crack cocaine, as well as recruiting other drug dealers to assist in his drug trafficking organization. Law enforcement officers also made controlled purchases of cocaine and crack cocaine base from or through Estep and his subordinates.
Search warrants executed on September 10, 2009, at Estep’s home and locations utilized by Estep recovered $8,445 in cash, a heat-sealed plastic bag containing a kilogram of cocaine, a plastic bag containing approximately 28.1 grams of cocaine, an empty heat-sealed plastic wrapper for a kilogram of cocaine containing cocaine residue, and drug packaging paraphernalia. Between 50 and 150 kilograms of powder cocaine and between 500 grams and 1.5 kilograms of crack cocaine were reasonably foreseeable to Estep during the course of the drug conspiracy.
According to his plea agreement, Estep also conducted financial transactions to conceal the source, ownership, and control of between $400,000 and $1 million in proceeds from the narcotics distribution conspiracy. These financial transactions included depositing checks and cash into personal and business accounts that Estep controlled and using those funds to purchase a truck, which was used to deliver cocaine to a source, a custom motorcycle, and a bar/restaurant, among other things.
Finally, Estep and others, including Darrell Alphonso Carter, conducted a gambling business which operated primarily from Carter’s residence in Abell, Maryland. During the conspiracy, Estep and other participants in the illegal gambling operation, which included games of dice, each provided Carter with $200 in return for Carter running the gambling operation at his residence. Generally, each low level participant in the dice game brought $5,000 to $10,000 with them to gamble. During an intercepted telephone call, Estep and Carter were heard discussing the need to use firearms, kept at Carter’s residence, to protect their gambling operation because of the significant amount of cash that flowed through the business. On September 10, 2009, a search warrant was executed at Carter's residence and law enforcement recovered a Benelli Armi Model B76 9mm semi-automatic handgun, a 9 mm magazine containing five rounds of ammunition, an Astra Firecat .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun, a .25 caliber magazine and seven rounds of ammunition, a notebook/ledger/owe sheet containing gambling debt and payment information, and 31 dice.
To date, 14 of 15 defendants charged in this conspiracy have pleaded guilty to their participation in the drug and gambling operations, including Darrell Alphonso Carter, age 43 of Abell, Maryland. Judge Messitte has scheduled sentencing for Carter on May 24, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS-CI and the deputies and officers from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, Charles County Sheriff’s Office, and the Prince George’s County Police Department, for their investigative work in this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys James A. Crowell IV and Mara Zusman Greenberg, who prosecuted the case.