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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Richard Byrd Pleads Guilty to Leading Major Baltimore Drug Distribution Organization

Also Admitted Laundering Millions of Dollars in Drug Proceeds

Baltimore, Maryland –Richard Byrd, a/k/a Robert Smith, age 43, a Jamaican national residing in Maryland and Arizona, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, and to conspiracy to launder drug proceeds. 

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Washington Field Office; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; Colonel Woodrow Jones, Chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police; Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Colonel Frank L. Milstead, Director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety; Chief Jeri Williams of the Phoenix, Arizona Police Department; and Chief Sean Duggan of the Chandler, Arizona Police Department.

“Richard Byrd ran a major drug distribution ring that generated millions of dollars in proceeds,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

“This is one of the largest and most prolific drug organizations that has been dismantled in Baltimore in recent memory”, stated Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder.  “This investigation and guilty plea is a prime example of how DEA, with our federal and local partners in HIDTA (High Impact Drug Trafficking Area), continues to target and dismantle large scale, complex trafficking organizations that operate in Baltimore, the surrounding metropolitan area, and throughout the nation.”

According to his plea agreement and court documents, from 2009 through April 2014, Richard Byrd was the leader and organizer a drug distribution network which provided for the acquisition, transportation and distribution of cocaine and marijuana.  The sale of marijuana and cocaine generated proceeds in the millions of dollars. These proceeds were counted and packaged in and around Baltimore. Byrd used couriers to transport the proceeds to the Atlanta, Georgia area, then others to transport the money from Atlanta to cities in Nevada, Texas, Arizona, and California, where the cash was used to purchase additional quantities of drugs.

Byrd also acquired a financial interest in a business in order to launder drug proceeds, finance commercial ventures, and pay other bills and expenses. At his direction, several million dollars in cash were deposited into the bank accounts maintained by the business. Many of these transactions involve deposits in excess of $10,000. In addition, Byrd used bank accounts in the name of an alias, Robert Smith, to conduct financial transactions intended to launder drug proceeds, including paying personal bills and expenses.

The conspirators used freight companies to ship drugs obtained in Arizona, California and elsewhere to distribution points in Baltimore, and other east coast destinations.  Rasan Byrd supervised the Arizona-based activities of organization. Under the direction of Richard Byrd, Rasan coordinated the acquisition of large quantities of marijuana and cocaine from Mexican sources of supply and supervised several workers who weighed and packaged the drugs in a way to avoid detection by law enforcement. On April 22, 2013, law enforcement officers in Arizona seized 16 kilograms of cocaine and over 600 pounds of marijuana which were about to be shipped to Byrd’s Baltimore-based distributors.

The Baltimore distributors included Jerome Castle, Joseph Byrd, and Harold Byrd. Castle supervised the Baltimore operation, taking delivery of the drugs, selling them, and collecting and counting proceeds from the drug sales. On April 22, 2013, law enforcement officers in Maryland seized approximately 350 pounds of marijuana and over 10 kilograms of cocaine from businesses and residences utilized by Castle, Joseph Byrd, and Harold Byrd. In addition, almost $58,000 in currency and jewelry valued at more than $400,000 were recovered at the residence of Jerome Castle. The money and jewelry were also proceeds from illegal drug sales.

In addition, over $1 million was seized in Arizona from Richard Byrd in early 2011. In July 2012, an additional of $372,000 was seized from a residence in Arizona occupied by Richard and Rasan Byrd. These money seizures were proceeds from east coast drug sales intended for use in acquiring additional quantities of marijuana and cocaine.

During the course of this conspiracy more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and 20,000 kilograms of marijuana were acquired and distributed by Richard Byrd and his associates.         

Byrd and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement Byrd will be sentenced to 26 years in prison and will be required to pay a money judgment of $20 million dollars, as well as forfeit his interest in two properties, three businesses, and 10 vehicles, and forfeit $1,609,411.51 in cash seized during the investigation.  U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for February 9, 2017, at 3:00 p.m.

Brothers Rasan Byrd, age 41, of Houston, Texas, Harold Alexander Byrd, age 27, of Phoenix, Maryland, and Joseph Ibreham Byrd, age 35, of Owings Mills, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy. Rasan was sentenced to 14 years in prison and Harold and Joseph were each sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Jerome Adolfo Castle, a/k/a Dontwon Burris, age 37, a Jamaican citizen residing in Pikesville, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Castle was also ordered to forfeit $57,997 in cash, his interest in seven Baltimore properties, jewelry valued at more than $411,000, 98 pairs of men’s shoes, two laptop computers and an I-Pad, seven firearms and ammunition, as well as six vehicles, including a 2009 Jaguar XF Premium.

Maurice Jones, age 62, and Richard Drummond, age 40, both of Baltimore, also pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and were sentenced to seven years in prison and two years in prison, respectively.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the DEA, Baltimore County Police Department, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, IRS-Criminal Investigation, HSI-Baltimore, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Phoenix Police Department, and Chandler, Arizona Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys James G. Warwick and Kenneth S. Clark, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated November 2, 2016