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Justice News

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

Friday, May 17, 2019

Wilmerding Man Pleads Guilty to Possessing Large Amounts of Fentanyl Sourced in New York City

PITTSBURGH - A former resident of Wilmerding, PA, pleaded guilty in federal court on one count of possession with intent to distribute more than 40 grams of fentanyl, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

Ronnell Lawrence, age 31, pleaded guilty yesterday before United States District Judge David Cercone.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that on July 10, 2017, Rondell Lawrence drove his twin brother and co-defendant, Ronnell Lawrence to the Greyhound Bus Station in downtown Pittsburgh. Ronnell Lawrence then boarded a bus bound for New York City. Ronnell Lawrence returned to Pittsburgh after spending only one hour in New York City. On July 11, 2017, Rondell Lawrence returned to the Greyhound Bus Station to pick up his brother. Investigators observed Ronnell putting a large camouflage backpack into the back of the Nissan Pathfinder. Investigators later stopped the Nissan Pathfinder for having an expired registration. A subsequent search of the vehicle and the camouflage bag placed there by Ronnell revealed eight large bags of suspected heroin and fentanyl and a bus ticket to New York City. The Drug Enforcement Administration Laboratory later tested the substances seized from the bag and revealed that the substances were approximately 390 grams of a heroin/fentanyl mixture.

Judge Cercone set sentencing for September 10, 2019 at 1 p.m. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of not less than five years in prison and up to 40 years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000,000, 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 the defendant.

Lawrence has been detained since his initial appearance and will remain detained pending sentencing. Co-defendant Rondell Lawrence was previously sentenced to five years (60 months) in prison on the same charge.

Assistant United States Attorney Timothy M. Lanni is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Narcotics Enforcement Team (DANET), Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, and North Versailles Police Department conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case.

Drug Trafficking
Updated May 17, 2019