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Justice News

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

Thursday, May 7, 2020

“SCO” Gang Member Sentenced to 10 Years’ Imprisonment

PITTSBURGH, PA - A former resident of Braddock, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to 10 years imprisonment and eight years supervised release on his conviction of narcotics trafficking, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

Senior United States District Judge Arthur J. Schwab imposed the sentence on James Wells, age 32.

According to information presented to the Court, the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force conducted a long-term investigation of drug trafficking occurring in and around the Braddock section of Pittsburgh. Wells and other individuals were identified as members or associates of a neighborhood based street gang, self-titled "SCO", which illegally distributed controlled substances in the Greater Pittsburgh Region.

In January of 2019, investigators obtained authorization to conduct a federal wire investigation, which continued through May of 2019. Wells, along with 32 others were indicted in June of 2019 by a federal grand jury in three separate, but related, Indictments.

As to Wells, the Court was informed that intercepted communications confirmed that he was conspiring with others to possess with intent to distribute and distribute heroin and cocaine base, commonly known as crack. Wells admitted, in conjunction with his guilty plea, that he is a higher level member of "SCO" and was responsible for distributing controlled substances to a number of regular customers and partnered with co-conspirator and SCO’s leader, Howard McFadden to conduct larger drug transactions.

On June 12, 2019, law enforcement arrested a majority of the defendants, however, Wells, after seeing law enforcement at his residence, fled the scene and remained a fugitive until July 3, 2019, when he was arrested in Monroeville, PA. Law enforcement executed a federal search warrant, on June 12, 2019, at Wells’ residence and seized, in addition to suspected controlled substances and other indicia of drug trafficking, a Glock 9mm firearm and ammunition, which Wells was prohibited from possessing based upon his prior criminal history.

Assistant United States Attorney Rebecca L. Silinski prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

United States Attorney Brady commended the multi-agency team, which was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Wolford. Partners in this investigation included the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force, Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, Allegheny County Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Narcotics, and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Other assisting agencies included the Monroeville Police Department, Penn Hills Police Department, Wilkinsburg Police Department, and Allegheny County Adult Probation.

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.

Drug Trafficking
Updated May 11, 2020