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Press Release

Man Pleads Guilty to Drug Trafficking and Firearms Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Washington D.C. man pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl, in addition to armed drug trafficking.

According to court documents, Phillip Thurston Mace, 38, sold heroin and fentanyl to an undercover police detective in Fairfax county during the course of several months. Mace also purchased two Glock handguns. He was arrested shortly after taking possession of the handguns.

In October 2018, an individual was arrested for shoplifting in Fairfax County. During the search, law enforcement discovered the individual to be in possession of heroin. The individual agreed to cooperate with law enforcement and provide assistance in the investigation of the Mace drug trafficking organization. Law enforcement conducted multiple controlled buys of drugs from Mace. In September 2019, an undercover detective met with Mace where 28 grams of heroin and 28 grams of fentanyl were given to the undercover detective, in return the officer gave Mace over $3,000 and a toolbox with two Glock handguns. After this transaction, Mace noticed an undercover police vehicle and fled from the scene. He was arrested shortly afterwards and officers recovered the firearms.

Mace pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and 40 grams or more of fentanyl, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. He faces a maximum penalty of 40 years to life in prison when sentenced on April 10. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. Click here for more information about Project Guardian.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Colonel Edwin C. Roessler Jr., Fairfax County Chief of Police, and Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael P. Ben’Ary is prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:19-cr-341.


Joshua Stueve
Director of Public Affairs

Updated January 15, 2020

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Project Guardian