Alleged cross-country drug ring busted 2 years after DC mother overdosed with single pill

More than two years after a young D.C. mother died of a fentanyl overdose, federal law enforcement have announced the additional arrests of members of a sprawling drug ring connected to the case.

“As of this morning, I can share that we have in custody 23 defendants named in this indictment, among them 14 from our region and nine from California,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves.

According to the Justice Department, defendants Trayveon James Johnson, Karon Olufemi Blalock, Ronte Ricardo Greene, Melvin Edward Allen Jr., Darius Quincy Hodges, Lamin Sesay, Paul Alejandro Felix, Omar Arana, Edgar Balderas Jr., Raul Pacheco Ramirez and Giovani Alejandro Briones, were arrested in a coordinated law enforcement operation in D.C. and three states. They were named in an indictment that includes several other defendants who were previously charged.

Graves said the defendants were part of a conspiracy to bring large quantities of fentanyl pills into D.C., mostly from California, smuggling the pills on planes and shipping them through the mail.

He said approximately a quarter of a million pills were seized along with a large number of firearms, including six machine guns.

Anne Milgram, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a statement that the investigation began after the 2021 overdose of a 20-year-old D.C. woman, Diamond Lynch, who took one pill and died almost instantly.

“That pill looked like an Oxycodone pill, was sold as a Percocet — it was all fentanyl,” said Milgram.

She said investigators uncovered a vast network of traffickers who transported fentanyl from Mexico to Los Angeles to D.C.

The joint investigation involved the DEA, the U.S. Postal Inspector, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local law enforcement, D.C. police and the Charles County, Maryland, Sheriff’s Office.

In June, two D.C.-area siblings were sentenced to a combined 14 years in prison for selling Lynch the pill.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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