Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Deandre Smith, age 28, and Karron Wheeler, age 35, both of Baltimore, to 12 years and 25 years in prison, respectively, for conspiring to sell heroin and fentanyl. Smith was sentenced today and Wheeler was sentenced on September 12, 2018.
The sentences were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle of the Baltimore Police Department; and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
“Our city is plagued by the deaths caused by drug-trafficking gangs: They kill their customers with heroin and fentanyl, and they kill each other (and innocent bystanders) with guns and bullets. These gangs are terrorizing the neighborhoods that they occupy,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “Police, federal agents, and prosecutors are working together to identify, disrupt, and hold accountable drug dealers who bring violence to Baltimore City and remove entire groups of them from our neighborhoods.”
According to Smith’s plea agreement, from at least July 2015 through April 28, 2016, Smith managed a large drug-trafficking organization that supplied heroin and fentanyl to distributors in Baltimore, including Wheeler. Smith also managed a drug trafficking operation that operated in and around Pedestal Gardens, an apartment complex located in the 300 block of McMechan Street in West Baltimore.
Smith maintained a “stash” house in Catonsville, Maryland, to store drugs and drug proceeds, and to process, and package drugs for distribution. Once packaged for distribution, Smith supplied large quantities of heroin and/or fentanyl to several drug shops in Baltimore, including shops operated by Wheeler. At Pedestal Gardens, Smith’s operation distributed “packs” of heroin and/or fentanyl. Each “pack” typically contained between 25 and 50 gel capsules of the drugs, totaling approximately 2.5 to 5 grams.
As detailed in Smith’s plea agreement, a co-conspirator killed two individuals on October 7, 2015 and August 10, 2016 respectively, to further the Pedestal Gardens drug organization’s drug trafficking activities. The organization believed that one of the individuals was distributing drugs in their territory, and that the other was robbing drug dealers in the area and disrupting the organization’s drug trafficking.
On April 28, 2016, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at the stash house in Catonsville. At the time of the search warrant, officers located Smith and other conspirators inside the residence. During the search, officers discovered over a kilogram of fentanyl, 575 grams of heroin, and nine grams of cocaine, all of which was being packaged for distribution. Officers also discovered approximately two kilograms of Phenacetin, a substance commonly used to “cut” drugs, as well as drug paraphernalia and approximately $15,465 in cash. Smith also had approximately $2,000 cash in his pocket.
According to Wheeler’s plea agreement, between at least March 2015 and August 26, 2016, Wheeler managed a drug organization that operated in several locations in Baltimore, including Pennsylvania Avenue and Laurens Street in West Baltimore. During the course of the conspiracy, Wheeler employed or directed more than five individuals. Wheeler admitted that, at his direction, the organization kept a firearm in close proximity to the drug shop for protection and to facilitate the drug operation.
Smith and Wheeler admitted that during their participation in the conspiracy they and their co-conspirators distributed between one and three kilograms of heroin.
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 FBI, 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 Daniel C. Gardner and Christopher J. Romano, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.