Steven Blackwell Pleads Guilty in Multi-million Dollar Heroin and Money Laundering Conspiracy
Drug and Tax Case is Part of Federal Effort to Combat Violent Crime
Baltimore, Maryland - Steven Blackwell, age 27, of Elkton, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government relating to the collection of income taxes.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein; and Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III.
“This case will be recorded in the books as a drug and tax prosecution, but it is an example of how we use federal law enforcement resources to fight violent crime,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Drug dealers whose criminal enterprises spawn violence are at the top of our list.”
According to his plea agreement, Blackwell was the leader of a conspiracy to distribute heroin in Maryland, New York and the Dominican Republic since December 2003, managing five or more participants. Blackwell made millions of dollars and distributed more than 30 kilograms of heroin. Blackwell became a member of the conspiracy as a Baltimore-based seller of heroin, which he obtained from suppliers in New York for approximately $70,000 per kilo. The heroin was then diluted and sold from “shops” and “outlets” operated by Blackwell in the Pimlico area of Baltimore City, on West Patterson Park Avenue, and elsewhere. The heroin was either delivered to Blackwell in Baltimore, or he sent Tahirah Carter and others to New York to deliver money and receive heroin, which was then transported back to Baltimore.
According to the plea agreement, Blackwell admits that he and Joy Edison conspired to launder the millions of dollars in proceeds from Blackwell’s heroin sales through the purchase of multiple properties, cars and other expensive items. In addition, in an effort to conceal the nature and the extent of the illegal income from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Blackwell and Edison engaged in financial transactions designed to prevent the IRS from properly assessing taxes due. Those financial transactions included using cash from drug proceeds to purchase: gambling casino playing chips; winning Maryland Lottery tickets from the actual lottery winners; residences and investment properties, often using corporations controlled by Steven Blackwell and Joy Edison; and luxury and consumer items. Blackwell also gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to individuals operating used car businesses in an effort to launder large amounts of drug proceeds. These financial transactions were intended to provide the IRS with the appearance of “legitimate income,” which in fact were the proceeds from the sale of multiple kilograms of heroin. At the same time, the income reported by Blackwell and his conspirators was a small fraction of the actual income derived from the sale of heroin.
According to the plea agreement, Blackwell and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement Blackwell will be sentenced to 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz has scheduled sentencing for January 12, 2012 at 2:15 p.m.
As part of his plea agreement, Blackwell must forfeit any money, property, or assets traceable to the illegal activity, including at least eight pieces of property held in the name of JJM and J Edison, LLC, Steven Blackwell, and Joy Edison, located in Elkton and Baltimore.
On August 26, 2011, Judge Motz sentenced Joy Edison, age 25, of Elkton, Maryland, to 70 months in prison for conspiring to launder over $400,000 in drug proceeds. Edison was also ordered to forfeit her interest in eight properties purchased with drug proceeds, and any other property purchased with drug trafficking proceeds. Tahirah Carter, age 34, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to her participation in the heroin conspiracy and was sentenced on August 22, 2011, to 135 months in prison.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorneys Tony Gioia, Michael Studdard and Tim Lake, the Drug Enforcement Administration Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Baltimore City Police Department and Maryland State Police for their work in this investigation. Mr Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys James G. Warwick and James T. Wallner, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.