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Press Release

Ringleader of South Side Pittsburgh Drug Gang Sentenced to 15 Years

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH - A resident of Pittsburgh has been sentenced in federal court to 15 years’ imprisonment and 10 years’ supervised release on his conviction of drug trafficking charges related to a large-scale investigation conducted by the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force, Acting United States Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today.

United States District Judge William S. Stickman, IV, imposed the sentence on Christopher Highsmith, age 28, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

According to information presented to the court, 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 intercept the wire communications of several of the suspected members of the organization, which continued through June of 2019. In addition to identifying communications about drug trafficking between Highsmith, the leader of the organization, and many of his coconspirators, agents made numerous seizures of fentanyl, heroin, and other drugs from members of the organization, as well as maintained critical physical surveillance of Highsmith’s drug-trafficking activities.

Highsmith personally engaged in the distribution activity, as well as directed lower-level members of DS44 to make drug deliveries, to collect payment, and to maintain records of drug proceeds. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl and other Schedule I and II controlled substances, as well as possession with intent to distribute a quantity of heroin and fentanyl. Highsmith had at least two prior felony drug trafficking convictions.

Prior to imposing sentence, Judge Stickman stated that Highsmith was responsible for the distribution of significant quantities of opiates and the harm to the community that stems from such distribution. He offered that a 15-year term of imprisonment was appropriate given Highsmith’s criminal history and his conduct in this case.

Assistant United States Attorneys Carolyn J. Bloch and Brendan J. McKenna prosecuted 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 InspectionService.

This prosecution is a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles high-level drug traffickers,money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations thatthreaten communitiesthroughout the United States. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agencyapproach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies againstcriminal networks.

Updated May 5, 2021

Drug Trafficking