- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2011

Using a mock recording studio as cover for a criminal enterprise, undercover officers from the Metropolitan Police Department confiscated 161 firearms, made 70 arrests and seized more than $7 million in drugs during a yearlong sting operation, authorities announced Monday.

The arrests made during “Operation Manic Enterprises” helped to close 15 armed robberies and two shootings and to break up a Mexican drug cartel looking to set up shop selling meth in Washington, police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said.

“Had these drugs made it to our streets, the consequences would have been devastating,” Chief Lanier said during the announcement at the police department’s headquarters.

The sting, which ran from November 2010 through November 2011, was aimed at catching high-level drug and gun dealers who were channeling their supplies from as far away as Atlanta, the chief said.

One man arrested through the sting, Christopher Washington, sold undercover officers 59 firearms over six months, according to documents filed in federal court.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier
Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier more >

Mr. Washington also offered to sell officers hand grenades and a rocket launcher, but he was arrested in June before the planned transaction, because officers learned he planned to rob them during the sale, police said.

“These aren’t sportsmen’s weapons. These are stick-up guns used by gang members,” said Rich Marianos, assistant special agent in charge at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which participated in the bust.

Officials said undercover officers who had experience dabbling in music production came up with the ruse, and the department outfitted a Northeast building as a recording studio for a rap artist. While police were tight-lipped about the details of the operation, court documents state that officers held meetings with drug and gun dealers at the undercover location.

“Word gets around pretty quickly,” and almost immediately people began approaching the undercover officers with offers to sell drugs and guns, Chief Lanier said.

In all, police either bought or seized roughly 80 pounds of methamphetamines, 9.6 kilograms (about 21 pounds) of cocaine, 1.25 gallons of PCP, and 23.5 pounds of marijuana, heroin and ecstasy, officials said. Chief Lanier said she did not have information Monday on the cost of the entire operation.

One man arrested in July was paid more than $21,000 for the sale of drugs and guns, according to documents filed in federal court. The man, James Roland Deale, has since pleaded guilty to drug-distribution and gun-possession charges.

The arrests of nine members of the Mexican drug cartel “La Familia” made last December were also attributed to the sting.