District Man Pleads Guilty to Participating in Large-Scale Narcotics Conspiracy
Offense Represents Fourth Felony Conviction
WASHINGTON – Artinis Winston, 43, of Northeast, D.C. pled guilty yesterday to his role in a large-scale narcotics conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Peter Newsham, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Winston pled guilty before the Honorable Amit P. Mehta in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin on July 11, 2019. Winston faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years of incarceration and a maximum period of incarceration of forty years. Winston will also be placed on four years of supervised release after completing his sentence. As part of his guilty plea to engaging in the conspiracy, Winston accepted responsibility for trafficking 360 grams of heroin and 40 grams of buprenorphine (commonly referred to as suboxone). Winston’s conviction in the case represents his fourth felony conviction. Judge Mehta scheduled Winston’s sentencing for September 25, 2019.
According to the Government’s evidence, in June 2017, ATF began investigating the trafficking of narcotics from the Next Level Cuts barbershop located in the 2400 block of MLK, Jr., Avenue, SE and adjoining property above. Law enforcement discovered a coordinated drug trafficking operation that was centered at the barbershop and extended into Maryland through surveillance, controlled purchases from inside and outside the barbershop, residential search warrants, cellphone searches, arrests, jailhouse calls, pleas, and cooperating witnesses. The investigation established that drug traffickers used the barbershop and adjoining property as a stash location.
The investigation led to a series of arrests beginning in February 2018. These arrests led to the recovery of three firearms from the barbershop, one firearm in a residence, the seizure of more than $7,000 in cash, and without packaging, the seizure of more than 300 grams of PCP, more than 150 grams of heroin, more than 100 grams of fentanyl, boxes of suboxone strips, and more than 100 grams of a cutting agents.
While multiple conspirators had been arrested in 2018, Winston was a fugitive for approximately nine months. Coconspirators Lonnell Tucker, 42, of Temple Hills, Md., Anthony Fields, 45, of Washington, D.C., and Abdul Samuels, 45, of Washington, D.C., were found guilty on March 21, 2019, following a trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before the Honorable Amit P. Mehta.
During the trial, officers and agents of the Prince George’s County Police Department, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor, testified regarding separate arrests of coconspirators during the course of ATF’s investigation, which resulted in the seizure of narcotics, drug paraphernalia, and U.S. currency.
On June 13, 2019, Fields was sentenced to 16 years of incarceration to be followed by eight years of supervised release. On June 14, 2019, Tucker was sentenced to five years of incarceration to be followed by three years of supervised release. Samuels has not yet been sentenced for his role in the drug trafficking conspiracy. Three other defendants – Darryl Smith, 41, of Washington, D.C., James Venable, 47, of Fort Washington, Md., and Lacy Hamilton, 42, of Suitland, Md. – pled guilty earlier to federal charges. Smith managed the barbershop and was sentenced to 80 months in prison relating to his possession of narcotics in the barbershop on February 1, 2018, and for his possession of packaged fentanyl and a loaded firearm following an arrest by MPD in December 2017 outside of the barbershop. Venable, another conspirator, was sentenced to a 37-month prison term following his possession of narcotics and a firearm in both Washington, D.C. during a December 2017 arrest by MPD and at his residence in Maryland on February 1, 2018. Venable also acknowledged selling narcotics to an ATF confidential informant in July 2017. Hamilton was sentenced to a 15-month prison term for selling narcotics outside the barbershop and in Maryland as part of the charged narcotics conspiracy.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Liu, Special Agent in Charge Benedict, and Chief Newsham commended the assistance provided by officers and agents of the Prince George’s County Police Department, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor, and the United States Marshal Service who assisted in trying to apprehend Winston. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who handled the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Macchiaroli and Gregory Rosen of the Violent Crime and Narcotics Trafficking Section, and Paralegal Specialist Candace Battle.