Baltimore Heroin Dealer Sentenced to 40 Years in Federal Prison For A Drug Conspiracy, and for Shooting and Killing Another Drug Dealer
Law Enforcement Captured the Murder on an Intercepted Call
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander today sentenced Aaron Daniels, age 25, of Baltimore, Maryland, to 40 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for a heroin distribution conspiracy and for discharging a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, resulting in death.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Don A. Hibbert of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office; Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle of the Baltimore Police Department; and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.
According to his plea agreement, and other court documents, from at least March 2017, Daniels conspired with Gregory Whisonant, Nathaniel Hillard, and others to distribute heroin in the Shipley Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. During the course of the conspiracy, law enforcement obtained wiretaps of the defendants’ cell phones, which confirmed that Daniels sold heroin under the direction of Hillard, who managed the day-to-day business for the organization, which was led by Whisonant. In addition, Daniels often sold heroin with Donya Rigby, who sometimes acted as a “lookout” for the organization, letting the street dealers know when police were around.
On March 5, 2017, Baltimore Police officers watched Daniels engage in a series of hand-to-hand drug transactions and arrested him. In the moments before his arrest, intercepted calls between Daniels and Rigby indicated that Rigby failed to inform Daniels that police were in the area. In an intercepted call between Daniels and Hillard, Daniels told Hillard that Rigby would be fired. Daniels secured bail and was released on March 6, 2017. From March 6 through March 17, 2017, law enforcement intercepted several calls between Daniels and others complaining about Rigby and accusing him of stealing $800 of drug proceeds.
On March 17, 2017, investigators intercepted a call between Daniels and Hillard which captured the murder of Rigby. During the call, Daniels explained his location to Hillard. At the time, Hillard was in the area of 2600 Fairmount Avenue in Baltimore City, acting as a lookout for Daniels. Hillard told Daniels to wait in a nearby alleyway. As Rigby approached the area, Hillard alerted Daniels to Rigby’s presence and provided instructions and logistical and motivational support for the murder. The thirteen-minute conversation captured the sound of Daniels firing two shots at Rigby and fleeing the location. Rigby, who can be heard screaming in pain in the background of the call, ultimately succumbed to the gunshot wounds. As Daniels ran from the scene, he complained to Hillard that his gun had jammed. The next morning, Daniels, over his intercepted phone, bragged about his exploits and indicated that he believe that his murder of Rigby would elevate his position within the drug trafficking organization.
As a result of the murder, Daniels and Hillard were quickly arrested on state drug charges. On March 20, 2017, search warrants were also executed at locations associated with the drug trafficking organization. At the stash house on Kinsey Avenue, agents recovered 100 vials of heroin packaged for street-level distribution. At Whisonant’s residence on Timbercross Lane, law enforcement recovered 350 grams of heroin, a digital scale, $10,234 in cash, and a stolen and loaded 9mm handgun with an extended magazine. Whisonant admitted that he possessed the gun to protect himself, his drug proceeds, and in furtherance of his drug trafficking. On jail calls made by Daniels, he instructed his girlfriend to discard a box of ammunition, which agents recovered from the trash outside the apartment building where Daniels lived with his girlfriend.
Nathaniel Hillard, age 40, and Gregory Whisonant, age 39, both of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to their participation in the drug conspiracy. Hillard also pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, resulting in death, for his participation in Donya Rigby’s murder. Whisonant also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Judge Hollander sentenced Hillard to 35 years in prison on May 21, 2018, and sentenced Whisonant to 30 years in prison on July 19, 2018.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the DEA, the Baltimore Police Department, and the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys James T. Wallner and Zachary Stendig, who prosecuted this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.