- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

D.C. police yesterday announced the arrests of 35 persons and the seizure of more than $1.5 million in illegal drugs and 31 firearms in a sting operation that began more than a year ago in the District and eventually led investigators to North Carolina.
As part of Operation Import-Export, the Metropolitan Police Department's Major Narcotics Branch set up a phony storefront on 14th Street NW in Adams Morgan in September 2001.
Posing as merchants who wanted to buy drugs and guns, undercover investigators lured illegal drug and gun dealers to the storefront. At one point, investigators purchased a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle from a dealer for nearly $600.
"Once word was on the street the store was out there, the illegal merchandise started coming in," said police Inspector Hilton Burton, who heads the Major Narcotics Branch.
"It worked like a domino effect," he said, explaining that suspects arrested during the sting's early phases provided information about other dealers, including a major supplier of methamphetamine believed by authorities to be working with a Mexican drug-trafficking gang.
The suspect "had been sent up here by a gang to set up a market here in Washington, D.C.," Inspector Burton said. "We bought meth from him and eventually we were able to seize quite a bit more than what we'd bought from him."
Police seized more than 9 kilograms of cocaine, 1.5 kilograms of crack cocaine, 120 grams of heroin, and more than 5 pounds of methamphetamine during the sting operation.
"Five pounds of meth is a tremendous amount for the Washington area," Inspector Burton said.
Investigators also identified and arrested a major East Coast trafficker of illegal weapons accused of supplying area gangs.
With funding from the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, D.C. police expanded the sting to Duplin County, N.C., where undercover officers "purchased high-powered assault rifles and handguns that were destined for the streets of the District," Inspector Burton said.
Investigators worked closely with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District. Inspector Burton said 32 of the 35 suspects in custody have pleaded guilty to various drug and weapons violations. Some face 15 to 25 years in prison, he said.
Police withheld details, saying several "residual investigations that were spun off the storefront sting" are ongoing in Duplin County and in the District. Inspector Burton said releasing names could jeopardize those investigations.
Speaking at a news conference, D.C. police Chief Charles H. Ramsey thanked Duplin County Sheriff Glen Jernigan and his department, as well as the federal law-enforcement authorities who provided the financial backing for the sting.
"This was a very successful operation," Chief Ramsey said.

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