Criminal Justice News

Saturday, October 28, 2017

DEA Joins Local Law Enforcement Partners in Nationwide Take Back of Opioids and Other Prescription Drugs

The Drug Enforcement Administration will join forces tomorrow with more than 4,000 local, tribal, and community partners at more than 5,000 collection sites to collect potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.  The effort will help prevent these drugs, including opioids, from falling into the wrong hands and contributing to a lethal drug abuse epidemic in the United States.

On Saturday, Oct. 28, 2018, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. local time, individuals can take pills and other solid forms of medication at nearby collection sites (DEA cannot accept liquids, needles or sharps), which can be located at (link is external) or by calling 800-882-9539. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

The DEA action comes just days after President Donald J. Trump announced the mobilization of his entire Administration to address drug addiction and opioid abuse by directing the declaration of a Nationwide Public Health Emergency to address the opioids crisis.

“Today the United States is facing the worst drug crisis in our history, as more Americans are dying from drug overdoses than ever before,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “We lose one American life to drugs every nine minutes. This crisis affects every American, as it is filling up our emergency rooms, our foster homes, and our cemeteries.

“President Trump is right to make this issue a top priority for his administration, and his plan will make a difference for millions of Americans. It will help those suffering from addiction get the treatment they need and prevent many new addictions from starting in the first place.   I commend him for recognizing the public health emergency that this is.” 

“This Department of Justice is committed to doing its part to turn the tide. This year we have conducted the largest opioid-related health care fraud takedown in American history, charging some 120 defendants with opioid-related crimes. Since then I have taken additional steps to stop opioid-related fraud, creating a new data analytics team that can find evidence of overprescribing, and appointing 12 prosecutors to focus solely on this issue. I firmly believe that these steps will prevent drug abuse and addiction and save American lives.

“We will continue to do our part in this effort, prosecuting drug traffickers and those who exploit vulnerable people suffering from addiction, so that every American can be safe and live out their God-given potential."

On Oct. 17, the Justice Department announced the indictments of two Chinese nationals and their North American based traffickers and distributors for separate conspiracies to distribute large quantities of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues and other opiate substances in the United States.  In July, the department announced the seizure of the largest criminal marketplace on the Internet, AlphaBay, which operated for over two years on the dark web and was used to sell deadly illegal drugs, including synthetic opioids like fentanyl, throughout the world. The international operation was led by the United States and involved cooperation with law enforcement authorities around the world.

In addition, DEA this week announced the formation of six new heroin enforcement teams in hard hit areas such as West Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, New York and Massachusetts.

The Take-Back initiative by the DEA addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. DEA launched its prescription drug take back program when both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration advised the public that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—posed potential safety and health hazards.

“Disposing of leftover painkillers or other addictive medicines in the house is one of the best ways to prevent a member of your family from becoming a victim of the opioid epidemic,” said DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson. “More people start down the path of addiction through the misuse of opioid prescription drugs than any other substance. The abuse of these prescription drugs has fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic, which has led to the largest rate of overdose deaths this country has ever seen.” 

Last April the public turned in 450 tons (900,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at almost 5,500 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 13 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 8.1 million pounds—more than 4,050 tons—of pills.

York Gang Leader Sentenced to Life in Prison

HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that the leader of a gang that has operated for a decade or more in the City of York was sentenced to life in prison for racketeering and drug distribution conspiracies.

According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, U.S. District Court Judge Yvette Kane imposed a sentence of life in prison on Rolando Cruz, Jr., a/k/a “Mico,” age 32, who was identified as a leader of the “Southside” street gang as well as a member of the Bloods.  When imposing sentence, Judge Kane noted Cruz’s leadership in the gang that ravaged the community in York for over a decade, causing numerous deaths and many other victims.

At the sentencing, the government presented evidence that Cruz’s gang related activities continued from his jail cell while he awaited sentencing. The government asked for a life sentence and pointed to the evidence that Cruz continued to sell drugs and participate in violent retaliation while in prison. The government argued to court that it should have no confidence that Cruz will ever stop his violent, drug trafficking ways, as demonstrated by his ongoing criminal conduct.  Judge Kane noted that there was mitigating evidence but, on balance, agreed that life in prison was the appropriate sentence.  

In November 2015, a jury convicted Cruz of racketeering and drug trafficking conspiracies after a seven-week trial.  It included over 100 witnesses called by the government, including York City Police officers and detectives, federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI and gang members who had previously pleaded guilty and featured the presentation of over 500 exhibits.  Among the exhibits were videos of violent incidents involving the Southside Gang, drugs, cash and property seized by police and ATF agents as part of the investigation.

The jury convicted the other 11 men who went to trial with Cruz.

The gang, labeled by the government as a criminal enterprise, is known as Southside.  It operated in southern York, centered in the area of Maple and Duke Streets.  There was no formal structure but the participants included senior leaders, drug traffickers engaged in distribution and sales of narcotics, particularly crack cocaine, and “shooters,” individuals who committed acts of violence, including use of firearms on behalf of the gang and to protect its members from other gangs in York.  Order was maintained through intimidation and threats and, in some cases, murder.  The Southside Gang includes a group of violent drug traffickers, originally affiliated with the “Bloods,” primarily a New York-based national violent street gang.

Violence against a rival York gang, called “Parkway,” allegedly resulted in death or shootings of members of both gangs and innocent bystanders.

ATF, together with the York City Police Department and the York County District Attorney’s Office, began an intensive two-year investigation of Southside in 2012.  It culminated in a September 2014 grand jury indictment of 21 individuals.

Eight of the indicted persons, including James Abney, a senior Southside leader, pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charge prior to the trial, as did seven other individuals included in the September 2014 indictment.       

Many individual Southside gang members were investigated and previously prosecuted by York County law enforcement agencies on state charges.  The federal prosecution aimed at dismantling the organization by exposing and attacking its continuity and leadership.  The federal investigation of gang violence and drug dealing in York is continuing in full cooperation with local police and the York County District Attorney’s Office.

Overall, the jury found seven of the 12 men on trial guilty of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute drugs, mainly cocaine base (crack) and cocaine, but including heroin in some instances.  Two others were found not guilty of the racketeering charge but were found guilty of the drug distribution conspiracy count of the indictment.  Three of the defendants were found not guilty of either of the conspiracy counts.  The jury found all 12 defendants guilty of possession of illegal drugs with the intent to distribute.  Two defendants were also charged and found guilty of, possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking.

The principal defendants, specifically the most violent and those in leading roles, were found guilty of the racketeering conspiracy charges.

The individual defendants and the charges on which they were awaiting sentencing or were sentenced:

Marc Hernandez, a/k/a “Marky D,” age 32; racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, drug possession with intent to deliver and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking (2 counts) is scheduled to be sentenced on October 25, 2017,

Douglas Kelly, a/k/a “Killer,” age 39; racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver is awaiting sentencing,

Roscoe Villega, a/k/a “P Shawn,” age 43; racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver is awaiting sentencing,

Tyree Eatmon, a/k/a “Ree,” age 29; racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver is awaiting sentencing,

Maurice Atkinson, a/k/a “Mo,” age 30; racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver is awaiting sentencing,

Anthony Sistrunk, a/k/a “Kanye,” age 29; racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver is awaiting sentencing,

Eugene Rice, a/k/a “B Mor,” age 29; drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver is awaiting sentencing,

Angel Schueg, a/k/a “Pocko,” age 28; drug trafficking conspiracy, and drug possession with intent to deliver is awaiting sentencing,

Jalik Frederick, a/k/a “Murder Cat,” age 22; drug possession with intent to deliver was sentenced to 33 months in prison on June 5, 2017,

Brandon Orr, a/k/a “B Or,” age 23; drug possession with intent to deliver was sentenced to 34 months in prison on November 10, 2016,

Jabree Williams, a/k/a “Minute,” age 24; drug possession with intent to deliver was sentenced to 60 months in prison on May 15, 2017.

James Abney, a/k/a “Doocs,” age 31.

Malik Sturdivant, a/k/a “Base,” age 25.

Jahkeem Abney, a/k/a “Foo,” age 27.

Ronald Payton, a/k/a “Ron Ron,” age 25.

Cordaress Rogers, a/k/a “Tank,” age 31.

Marquis Williams, a/k/a “Quis,” age 29.

Jerrod Brown, a/k/a “Boogie,” age 28.

Quintez Hall, a/k/a “Q,” age 25.

Richard Nolden, a/k/a “Rich,” age 27.

The case included the participation and assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Pennsylvania State Police, West York Borough Police Department, Spring Garden Township Police Department, the York County Drug Task Force, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael A. Consiglio, William Houser, and Joseph Terz prosecuted the case.

ATF Offers $5,000 Reward for Information on Colorado Springs Gun Store Burglary

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office are offering up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects who burglarized Big Jim’s Loans III pawn shop, Oct. 18.

At about 3:45 a.m., multiple suspects stole about 10 long guns from the store at 5825 Galley Road in Colorado Springs. Photos of the suspects are at the end of the release.

“Stolen firearms are funneled directly to criminals who couldn’t obtain firearms legally,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Debora Livingston. “We appeal to anyone who knows the identity of these suspects or the whereabouts of the firearms to contact us before innocent people are hurt.”

“There is a process to obtain firearms legally in El Paso County. Individuals that obtain firearms through the commission of a crime pose a threat to the safety of the community,” said El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder. “The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with the Colorado Springs Police Department and our federal partners will work diligently to take these firearms back off the street. We appreciate the community’s assistance with information leading to the confiscation of these firearms and keeping our streets safe.”

ATF and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office are jointly investigating the burglary.

Anyone with information should call ATF’s Tip Line at 1-800-ATF-GUNS [ 1-800-ATF-GUNS] (283-4867), El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at 719-390-5555 [ 719-390-5555] or Pikes Peak Crime Stoppers at (719) 634-STOP (7867) or 1-800-222-8477 [ 1-800-222-8477] . Callers to the ATF and Crime Stoppers tip lines can remain anonymous. People can also submit a tip through ATF’s new “reportit” app available at (link is external)and at Google Play and the Apple App Store. All tips to the app are confidential and can be anonymous.