News and Press Releases

Beechview Man Admits Role In Large‑Scale Heroin Trafficking Ring

October 18, 2010

PITTSBURGH, Pa. ‑ A resident of Pittsburgh, Pa., pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of violating federal narcotics laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Byron Rice, 31, pleaded guilty to one count of drug conspiracy on Friday, Oct. 15, 2010, before Chief United States District Judge Gary L. Lancaster.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that in September 2005, Rice recruited a group of men to assist him in a large‑scale heroin trafficking ring. Rice led the group on weekly, or twice‑weekly, car trips to Elizabeth, NJ, where Rice purchased bulk quantities of raw, or uncut heroin. Rice then would rent hotel rooms in the Pittsburgh area, where the men would spend a day or more packaging the heroin into individual "stamp bags" for sale in Western Pennsylvania. Each shipment would yield a minimum of 10,000‑20,000 bags of heroin, depending on how it was packaged.  Rice then distributed the heroin to his network of street dealers.

On Dec. 12, 2005, agents conducted a canvass of witnesses at the Extended Stay Suites in Carnegie, Pa., following the murder of Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Joseph Pokorny outside the hotel.  The investigation led to the discovery of a large quantity of heroin and packaging material inside Room 315, a room Rice had rented the previous day. Nearly a half‑pound of uncut heroin, about 30,000 unused stamp bags, 1,200 filled stamp bags, scales, and packaging materials were seized.

Judge Lancaster scheduled sentencing for Feb. 25, 2011.  The law provides for a maximum total sentence of not less than 10 years to life in prison, a fine of $4,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Pending sentencing, the court ordered that the detention of Rice be continued.

Assistant United States Attorney Gregory J. Nescott  is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Pennsylvania State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Rice.

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