Baltimore, Maryland – Tirrel Saunders, a/k/a “Pretty”, age 35, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Saunders was a member of the Gregory Butler Drug Trafficking Organization (“Butler DTO”) which distributed heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and crack cocaine in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office; Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department.
According to his guilty plea, from October 2018 through April 2019, FBI intercepted phone communications of the Butler DTO that operated in and around the Baltimore area, using phones to arrange heroin, crack cocaine, and fentanyl sales to drug users and redistributors from Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
The Butler DTO sold thousands of dollars in narcotics on a daily basis. For example, intercepted phone communications revealed that the Butler DTO frequently sold over 100 grams of heroin mixed with fentanyl on a daily basis. Customers of the Butler DTO believed they were purchasing heroin, but the Butler DTO adulterated all heroin it sold with fentanyl. Street-level distributors in the Butler DTO worked in shifts and shared phones they used to communicate with Butler DTO leadership and customers.
As stated in the plea agreement, investigative efforts identified Saunders as a Butler DTO supervisor and manager. In this capacity, Saunders managed daily supplies of narcotics and the collection of drug proceeds from distributors. FBI investigators intercepted Saunders regularly arranging to resupply co-conspirators with heroin and crack cocaine which they sold to drug customers. Saunders also communicated with Butler DTO leadership and acted as a liaison between Butler DTO leadership and street-level distributors.
Saunders agreed that over the course of the conspiracy, he distributed over one kilogram of heroin to street-level distributors.
This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
This case is also 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. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
Saunders and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Saunders will be sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm has scheduled sentencing for November 19, 2021 at 1 p.m.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the FBI, DEA, Montgomery County Police Department, and the Baltimore Police Department for their work in the investigation.
Mr. Lenzner also recognized the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the City of Rockville Police Department; the Baltimore County, Howard County, and Montgomery County Police Departments; the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office; the Maryland State Police; the West Virginia State Police; the Virginia State Police; the Warren County (VA) Sheriff’s Department; the Winchester (VA) and Front Royal (VA) Police Departments; and the Frederick County and Howard County State’s Attorney’s Offices for their assistance. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew DellaBetta, who is prosecuting the case.
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