Twenty People Charged in Federal Drug and Firearms Case Involving Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin, Cocaine, and Crack Cocaine
Arrests Follow Year-Long Investigation; Drugs and Guns Seized
WASHINGTON – Nineteen people have been arrested and one is being sought on federal charges in connection with an ongoing investigation into a drug trafficking network that distributed heroin, crack cocaine, cocaine, PCP, and suboxone in the Washington, D.C. area.
The arrests and charges were announced today by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Thomas L. Chittum III, 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).
The charges were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. To date, more than 55 ounces of cocaine and cocaine base, more than seven ounces of heroin, and more than 10 pounds of marijuana have been seized as a result of the investigation, along with seven firearms, including a short-barreled AK rifle, one silencer, and more than $10,000 in cash.
A total of 16 people were indicted for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, crack cocaine, cocaine, PCP, and suboxone. Two additional individuals were indicted for firearms offenses, and two more defendants were charged in criminal complaints. The indictments include a forfeiture count against those now charged in the investigation, which seeks all proceeds from the crimes.
The prosecutions followed a joint investigation by ATF and the MPD/FBI Safe Streets Task Force, a multi-agency team that conducts comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. In the summer of 2017, MPD, ATF, and the FBI began a long-term investigation into drug trafficking in the Northeast quadrant of the District of Columbia. The indictments allege that various defendants conspired to carry out various facets of the drug operation from at least October 2017 until September 2018.
“These indictments are the result of a concerted law enforcement effort to identify and prosecute those responsible for drug trafficking in neighborhoods in the District of Columbia,” said U.S. Attorney Liu. “Those who sell illegal drugs pose a significant threat to public safety and we will do everything we can to disrupt and dismantle their operations.”
“Information developed from MPD’s summer crime prevention initiative led to a year-long federal gang investigation that culminated with these arrests of a network of drug dealers,” said Special Agent in Charge DeSarno. “We will continue to work with our federal and local law enforcement partners through the MPD/FBI Safe Streets Task Force to take down these violent enterprises and address crime in our region.”
“Gun crime is a scourge on our communities and it holds good citizens hostage in their homes. Everyone deserves a community where they feel safe,” said Special Agent in Charge Chittum. “ATF is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to make sure they have it. We will continue to use our resources to take armed criminals off our streets and put them behind bars where they belong.”
“The safety and well-being of District residents and visitors was positively impacted as a result of this comprehensive investigation and subsequent prosecutions,” said Chief Newsham. “We have an unwavering commitment at the Metropolitan Police Department to remove illegal firearms and narcotics from our neighborhoods, which is shared by each of our partner agencies. This operation should serve as an example of this commitment and our ability to safely remove dangerous individuals from our community.”
Numerous law enforcement agencies assisted in the arrests and searches, including the Prince George’s County, Md. Police Department, the, Montgomery County, Md. Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), the U.S. Park Police, and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Seventeen people were arrested on Sept. 28, 2018. Two others were already in custody and one remains at large. The defendants began making court appearances on Sept. 28, 2018, with further proceedings scheduled for this week.
A total of 13 locations were searched during the law enforcement actions on Sept. 28, 2018, including 11 in the District of Columbia and two in Prince George’s County, Md. At earlier stages of the investigation, law enforcement seized evidence during two additional searches in the District of Columbia and two in Montgomery County, Md.
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 arrests and charges, U.S. Attorney Liu, Special Agent in Charge DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge Chittum, and Chief Newsham commended the work of those who investigated the case from the Safe Streets Task Force, including the FBI’s Washington Field Office and MPD, and ATF.
They acknowledged the sponsorship and support of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF specializes in the investigation and prosecution of drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and related criminal enterprises.
Additionally, they expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Washington, D.C. Field Office;, Prince George’s County, Md. Police Department, Montgomery County, Md. Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Park Police, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
Finally, they cited the efforts of those who are working on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, including Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth F. Whitted, C.B. Buente, Stephen J. Gripkey, and Kara Traster, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Swanton, who assisted with the forfeiture aspects of the investigation.