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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Pittsburgh Man Pleads Guilty in Federal Wire Investigation of Drug Trafficking by South Side Neighborhood Gang Known as DS44

PITTSBURGH, PA – A former resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges related to drug trafficking in connection with a large-scale investigation conducted by the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

Rico Taylor, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute or possess with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl, before United States District Judge William S. Stickman IV. Mr. Taylor is one of 36 defendants charged in the Indictment.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that in 2017, the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force initiated an investigation primarily targeting the Darccide/Smash 44, or DS44, neighborhood gang, and its drug-trafficking activity, in and around the South Side area of Pittsburgh. As part of this large-scale narcotics and firearms investigation, in February of 2019, the United States received authorization to conduct a federal wire investigation, which continued through June of 2019.

The court was further advised that Mr. Taylor was involved in the distribution of heroin and fentanyl, including serving as source of supply of heroin and fentanyl for co-conspirator Christopher Highsmith. In connection with his guilty plea, Mr. Taylor accepted responsibility for distributing or possessing with intent to distribute 39 grams of a mixture containing fentanyl and heroin.

Judge Stickman scheduled sentencing for September 21, 2020, at 10:30 am. The law provides for a total sentence of not more than twenty years in prison, a fine of up to $1,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of each defendant. Taylor remains detained pending sentencing.

Assistant United States Attorney Christy C. Wiegand is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation led the multi-agency investigation of this case, which also included the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Allegheny County Adult Probation, Allegheny County Police Department, Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Narcotics, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, and the Wilkinsburg Police Department. Other assisting agencies include the Green Tree Police Department, New York City Police Department, Mount Oliver Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Yonkers Police Department, United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

The investigation was funded by the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Program (OCDETF). The OCDETF program supplies critical federal funding and coordination that allows federal and state agencies to work together to successfully identify, investigate, and prosecute major interstate and international drug trafficking organizations and other criminal enterprises.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated April 29, 2020