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Press Release

Man Pleads Guilty to Opioid Overdose Resulting in Death

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

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A former Northern Virginia resident pleaded guilty today to distribution of heroin that resulted in the death of a Leesburg man in March 2016. 

According to court documents, John Jacob Stapleton, 33, who most recently resided in Fort Pierce, Florida, regularly obtained illegal opioids from sources of supply that he and others distributed to customers within Loudoun County and the greater Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area. In March 2016, Stapleton distributed heroin that resulted in the death of E.L., a former Loudoun County resident. A forensic toxicologist determined that E.L.’s blood and vitreous humor each contained a combination of morphine and 6-acetylmorhpine, and a forensic pathologist determined that E.L. died of heroin poisoning. Further investigation by law enforcement officials revealed that E.L. overdosed on heroin that another individual obtained directly from Stapleton.   

Stapleton pleaded guilty to distribution of heroin resulting in serious bodily injury and death. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 20 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison when sentenced on April 17. 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.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Timothy M. Dunham, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office; Michael L. Chapman, Loudoun County Sheriff; and Gregory C. Brown, Leesburg Chief of Police, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David A. Peters and Raj Parekh are prosecuting the case.

This matter was investigated by the Washington Field Office’s Safe Streets/HIDTA Task Force which is composed of Agents and Task Force Officers from the Leesburg PD, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, the Fairfax County Police, the Prince William County Police, the Alexandria City Police, the Vienna Police Department, the Herndon Police Department, the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Homeland Security, and in cooperation with the DEA, ATF and USMS.  

The task force’s mission is to effectively identify, disrupt and dismantle the most egregious gangs and criminal enterprises engaged in violence and narcotics distribution within Northern Virginia. 

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 is 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-340.


Joshua Stueve
Director of Public Affairs

Updated January 24, 2020