July 19, 2024
Court Sentences 15th Defendant Involved in Southeast Washington Drug Trafficking Conspiracy
Court Sentences 15th Defendant Involved in Southeast Washington Drug Trafficking Conspiracy            WASHINGTON – Rico Griffin, 34, of Washington, D.C., was...

            WASHINGTON – Rico Griffin, 34, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 66 months in prison for his role in a drug trafficking network based in Southeast Washington that sold cocaine, crack cocaine, Fentanyl, PCP, and marijuana, announced United States Attorney Matthew M. Graves, FBI Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs, of the Washington Field Office Criminal and Cyber Crime Division, and Chief Robert J. Contee, III, of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

            Griffin pleaded guilty on January 25, 2023, to conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute cocaine base. Griffin was indicted with 16 co-defendants (listed below). All but two of the seventeen defendants have pleaded guilty and received prison terms ranging from 24 months to 114 months based on their criminal conduct and criminal histories.  

            The case stems from an investigation by the MPD Narcotics and Special Investigations Division and the FBI into the “MLK Crew” – a group of individuals who were operating an open-air drug market in and around the 2900 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE, Washington D.C. The investigation began in response to numerous citizen complaints about rampant drug trafficking and accompanying incidents of violence in the area. In addition to numerous citizen complaints, MPD targeted this area as one of the most notorious in the city in terms of recent shootings and shots fired, as well as for the area’s high numbers of arrests—particularly offenses involving drugs and firearms.

            “Our Office, the Metropolitan Police Department, and the FBI are focused on the couple dozen blocks across our District that are magnets for violence,” said US Attorney Graves. “There is no doubt that the blocks in which the MLK Mellon Crew operated were among the most dangerous. We know that drug trafficking attracts violence and we saw, after dismantling this crew, a substantial decrease in shooting incidents in the months after the incident. Temporarily breaking the cycle of violence offers a valuable window to restore order and to provide the community the support it needs to heal.”

            “The defendants wreaked havoc on the residents of Congress Heights by running an open-air drug market built on violence, often commandeering local businesses to conduct illegal sales,” said SAC Jacobs. “As this case demonstrates, the FBI through its commitment to partnerships will aggressively pursue data-driven intelligence and public tips to dismantle the violent gangs terrorizing our communities.”

            “There is no excuse for the fear that the MLK Mellon Crew spread across our community,” said Chief Contee. “Their drug trafficking and violence has impacted our entire city. Now, thanks to the tireless work of our officers, detectives, and law enforcement partners, our community can rest easier knowing that these individuals are being held accountable.”

            As part of its investigation, MPD and FBI began conducting surveillance, obtaining search warrants, and making controlled buys of narcotics from suspected members of the conspiracy.

            The investigation revealed that MLK Crew members openly engaged in the sale of various drugs (including PCP, crack, fentanyl, and marijuana) and took over the area and, effectively, some of the neighborhood’s businesses. MLK Crew members would often go into the neighborhood businesses to complete sales and constantly loitered outside of these businesses to engage in sales. As part of its investigation, MPD and FBI obtained video of defendants openly conducting narcotics transactions in these businesses and even displaying firearms. Throughout the case, law enforcement seized at least 10 firearms (many of which were privately manufactured firearms or “ghost guns”) from MLK crew members and/or stash houses and a sizeable quantity of various narcotics. The MLK Crew’s drug trafficking contributed to numerous incidents of drug-related violence in and around the 2900 Block of MLK Avenue, including multiple assaults, shootings, robberies, and murders—most notably, the murder of a six-year-old girl who was the daughter of one of the co-defendants in this case. 

            In July of 2021, a few months after opening the investigation, MPD and FBI arrested 11 initial defendants and seized 10 firearms, along with PCP, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, heroin, pills, and over $2,500 in cash. The additional six defendants were charged in September 2021 and were arrested shortly thereafter; however, Rico Griffin, remained a fugitive until January 3, 2023. After his arrest, Rico Griffin quickly pleaded guilty and was sentenced today.

            The prosecutions followed a joint investigation by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Cross Border Safe Streets Task Force in partnership with MPD’s Narcotics and Special Investigations (NSID) Violence Reduction Unit (VRU). This partnership targets the most egregious and violent street crews operating in the District of Columbia. Assistance was provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Park Police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Henek and Andy Wang of the of the Violence Reduction and Trafficking Offenses (VRTO) Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

            The investigation had the sponsorship and support of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF specializes in the investigation and prosecution of drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and related criminal enterprises.

 

DEFENDANT

STATUS

Ricky Lyles, 42, Accokeek, MD

sentenced to 114 months for conspiracy to distribute 16.8-22.4 grams of crack cocaine and possessing a firearm

Nico Griffin, 32, Washington, DC

sentenced to 37 months for conspiracy to distribute 22.4-28 grams of crack cocaine

Dandre Shorter, 28, Washington, DC

sentenced to 37 months for conspiracy to distribute 22.4-28 grams of crack cocaine

Wesley Leake, 32, Washington, DC

sentenced to 40 months for conspiracy to distribute 22.4-28 grams of crack cocaine

Leon Lindsay, 37, Washington, DC

sentenced to 57 months for conspiracy to distribute 22.4-28 grams of crack cocaine

Dezmond Cunningham, 28, Washington, DC

sentenced to 48 months conspiracy to distribute 22.4-28 grams of crack cocaine

Divine Chappell, 26, Washington, DC

sentenced to 76 months for possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine

Shawn Wooden, 40, Washington, DC

trial scheduled for October 16

Barry Tyson, 20, Washington, DC

sentenced to 73 months of incarceration for possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine

Delonta Chappell, 35, Washington, DC 

sentenced to 48 months for conspiracy to distribute 28-112 grams of crack cocaine

Anthony Graves, 32, Washington, DC

sentenced to 27 months for conspiracy to distribute 22.4-28 grams of crack cocaine

Deshawn Loggins, 21, Temple Hills, MD 

sentenced to 42 months for conspiracy to distribute 28-112 grams of crack cocaine

Kevonte Randall, 25, Washington, DC

sentenced to 46 months for conspiracy to distribute 22.4-28 grams of crack cocaine and possessing a firearm

Corenzo Mobery, 40, Washington, DC 

trial scheduled for October 16th.

Rico Griffin, 34, Washington, DC

66 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute 22.4-28 grams of crack cocaine

Shahborne Scales, 32, Washington, DC 

sentenced to 66 months for conspiracy to distribute 22.4-28 grams of crack cocaine

Luther McDuffie, 35, Washington, DC

sentenced to 24 months for conspiracy to distribute 22.4-28 grams of crack cocaine

Originally published at https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/washingtondc/news/court-sentences-15th-defendant-involved-in-southeast-washington-drug-trafficking-conspiracy

originally published at HUMAN RIGHTS - USA DAILY NEWS 24