- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2000

Federal and local authorities yesterday busted one of the biggest and most sophisticated heroin distribution rings in the District of Columbia's history, arresting 25 persons and shutting down a $20 million illegal operation.
The drug ring named for the man charged with being its leader, Earl Anthony Garner Sr. has distributed more than 30 kilograms, or about 66 pounds, of heroin in the District and Prince George's County (Md.) since 1996, according to a massive 69-page federal indictment unsealed yesterday.
Thirty persons two already in jail and three who were fugitives yesterday face 58 counts of conspiracy to distribute and possession of heroin and cocaine, criminal enterprise, money laundering and other charges. If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to life in prison.
"This sends a loud and clear message to drug dealers in the District of Columbia: Regardless of your poison of choice, we will use all legitimate and available tools to dismantle the illegal operations," said U.S. Attorney for the District Wilma A. Lewis.
The group primarily sold drugs in the Langston Dwelling Housing Complex, near 21st Street and Benning Road NE, near Spingarn and Phelps high schools, Brown Junior High School and Young Elementary School.
Earl Garner, 49, of Temple Hills, ran the drug ring like a chief executive officer, employing his son Earl Anthony Garner Jr. and nephew Reginald Curtis Carter as administrators for packaging, processing and shipping the drugs, Miss Lewis said.
Using a complex system of cellular phones and pagers, the indictment says other members of the ring handled storage, redistribution, street-level selling, profit collection and money laundering including savings account deposits and investments in mutual funds.
FBI agents and other law enforcement officials executed 30 search warrants yesterday morning, catching all but three persons by 7:30 a.m. Police seized 19 weapons, 16 vehicles, $790,000 in cash, more than 5 kilograms of heroin, small amounts of cocaine and marijuana and 2,000 methadone tablets.
Authorities also have identified more than $43,000 in drug money in various bank and investment accounts, said Ellen Knowlton, special agent in charge of the criminal division in the FBI's Washington Field Office.
The shutdown of the heroin trafficking ring stems from a street-level investigation that began 18 months ago by 5th District police officers and investigators with the Inspector General's Office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Those agencies, along with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI's Washington Field Office and the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District, formed a joint task force of 300 law enforcement officers to target the operation.
The U.S. Attorney's Office has used similar massive federal indictments against drug dealers and killers recently notably Starbucks killer Carl D. Cooper, and Kevin Gray, ringleader of a crack cocaine gang charged with 15 slayings and Miss Lewis promised similar investigations in the near future.
"Citizens of the District of Columbia will no longer be ravaged and held hostage by drug dealers," she said.
Miss Lewis and Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey credited 5th District officers in the "Weed & Seed" project for fueling the investigation.
Cmdr. Anthony Poteat said his officers began the program in 1993 because of an open air drug market's proximity to schools and a public housing project.
For the "seed" portion of the initiative, city agencies and officers sponsored outreach, recreation and education programs, including an annual trip for several children to Florida, Cmdr. Poteat said.
The "weed" portion included surveillance, purchases of drugs by undercover officers and other activities, he said.
Crack cocaine and marijuana often are the focus of major drug investigations, but "heroin has had a firm base among drug addicts in this city," the FBI's Miss Knowlton said.
Chief Ramsey said his officers will increase patrols in the Langston Dwelling area to ensure that a new generation of drug dealers doesn't replace the ring shut down yesterday.
Past indictments of this size usually included charges of homicide or other violent crimes, but Miss Lewis said "there's no indication so far of the kind of violence associated with other drug rings."
Nevertheless, she emphasized the drug gang and resulting heroin use in the neighborhood caused serious "disharmony and problems."

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