12th person sentenced in DC area heroin trafficking investigation

WASHINGTON — An exhaustive police effort to dismantle two Alexandria, Va.-area heroin and fentanyl trafficking rings ended on Thursday, with the sentencing of its 12th and final defendant.

Gregory Taylor, 44, of Fort Washington, Maryland has been sentenced to 12 years in prison. He plead guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges for his role in a far-reaching, interstate heroin trafficking ring centered in the Alexandria area.

Taylor was the twelfth and final defendant to be convicted in Operation Purple Rain, a yearlong investigation on both sides of the Potomac sparked by two heroin overdoses around Alexandria in 2016. All 12 defendants were convicted on similar charges, and each has been sentenced to between 3 and 15 years in prison.

“It’s always gratifying to see an operation like this come to completion,” Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a news conference on Thursday. “All 12 have been convicted, all 12 are going to jail — that means lives are going to be saved, because they’re not going to be out dealing these dangerous drugs.”

Over the course of the investigation, Alexandria police and Virginia State Police learned of two intertwined criminal enterprises distributing heroin throughout the city. Court documents say members of the two rings distributed heroin to Alexandria street dealers, and one of the groups mixed their heroin with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid meant to increase the potency of each dose.

Together, the 12 defendants were believed to have distributed more than five kilograms of heroin, with a street value over $1 million.

They were:

Dwayne Mann, 58, of Alexandria, Virginia

Tony Mann, 57, of Alexandria

Jacqueline McBride, 63, of Alexandria

Ronald Morton, 40, of Clinton, Maryland

Tony Dirrell Smith, 33, of Alexandria

Dennis Starr, 66, of Alexandria

Albert Taylor, 64, of Alexandria

Gregory Taylor, 44, of Fort Washington, Maryland

Tyrone Washington, 39, of Fort Washington

Richard Williams, 65, of Alexandria

In 2017, investigators seized almost half a kilogram of heroin — enough for around 4,000 doses — and confiscated 10 firearms, more than 330 grams of cocaine, 19 grams of PCP, and 7 pounds of marijuana.

“My office is relentless in going after the dealers and traffickers who profit off addiction,” Herring said. Herring — whose office has worked over 125 cases roping in over 435 pounds of heroin — said Operation Purple Rain was a testament to the importance of interagency communication in tackling the opioid epidemic.

“We want the heartbreak to stop before it even starts,” Herring said. “That means educating our kids, it means warning everybody we possible can — parents, teachers, coaches, faith leaders — everybody has a role to play in this if we’re going to get it turned around. We can do it, but everybody’s got a role to play here.”

Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said Operation Purple Rain involved a “somewhat unusual” degree of close-knit cooperation between local authorities, Virginia state officials, and authorities in Maryland — where three of the 12 defendants resided.

When it became clear that Alexandria dealers were obtaining the drugs from across the Potomac, law enforcement reached out to their Maryland counterparts for help in carrying out complex surveillance on targets.

“We’re making a concerted effort to not allow those physical barriers to stop our investigation,” Porter told news media on Thursday. “In other words, they’re not going to have refuge because they happened to reside in Maryland, and only infrequently come over here to sell heroin.”

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.

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