NEWPORT NEWS, VA (USDOJ.Today) Five members of a Peninsula-based narcotics operation were sentenced over the last two days to a combined 51 years in prison and ordered to forfeit over $2,000,000 for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and cocaine base in Hampton Roads.
“Our office will continue to diligently and aggressively prosecute those who distribute these dangerous and deadly substances,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “In addition to seeking the appropriate prison sentence for drug traffickers, our office will ensure that drug traffickers do not get to keep the ill-gotten gains they have made from poisoning the community. I want to thank our fellow federal, state, and local law enforcement partners for their coordinated work in Operation Cookout, which has led to apprehending these individuals and stopping the spread of dangerous substances.”
“Thanks to the investigative efforts of Homeland Security Investigations special agents and our law enforcement partners via Operation Cookout, we were able to take down one of the largest heroin and fentanyl trafficking rings in the region,” said Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. “I can confidently say that Operation Cookout helped save lives.”
According to court documents, Damarcus Mackie, 44, from Mississippi, acquired heroin and fentanyl in kilogram quantities, but would sell it, often through runners, in quantities as low as grams. Mackie also pressed heroin and fentanyl into pills to resemble pharmaceutical opioids like Oxycodone, and he distributed large quantities of cocaine and crack cocaine as well. Five co-conspirators maintained stash houses for Mackie at various times. In addition to those maintaining drug houses for him, Mackie directed at least four other co-conspirators in their drug acquiring and distribution activities. As part of his sentencing, Mackie was ordered to forfeit a money judgment of $1,314,120. Mackie also forfeited a Mercedes sedan as part of this case.
Marcid V. Byrd, 36, of Hampton, acquired cocaine in multi-kilogram quantities and sold cocaine by the ounce, the half-kilogram, and even by the kilogram. Byrd used a residence in Hampton to distribute cocaine to his co-conspirators, at least six of whom he supervised. On one occasion, Byrd demanded that one of his co-conspirators pay his drug debt to Byrd with a Draco firearm. When Byrd’s cocaine source dried up, Byrd tried to pool his money with Damarcus Mackie to obtain cocaine from Mackie’s source. As part of his sentencing, Byrd was ordered to forfeit a monetary judgment of $845,875, real property located in Hampton, as well as a 2016 BMW I8, valued at over $100,000.
Symphoni Wiggins, 39, of Hampton, allowed Damarcus Mackie to use her home as a stash house to store heroin and fentanyl. At Mackie’s direction, Wiggins would mix and prepare heroin and fentanyl with cutting agents and package it for distribution. At times, Wiggins would prepare over fifty grams of heroin/fentanyl a day for distribution through Mackie and his drug runners. Wiggins referred to herself as “the master mixer.”
Clarence Ford, 28, of Hampton, assisted Marcid Byrd with the distribution of cocaine and the collection and remission of drug proceeds. In addition to collecting cocaine proceeds from Byrd’s co-conspirators, Ford would also assist Byrd with his drug trafficking activities by checking for police surveillance.
Jill Hockaday, 54, from New Jersey, bought heroin in gram quantities for both personal use and redistribution. Damarcus Mackie served as the immediate source, and then later as an indirect source, for Hockaday’s heroin.
These sentences are part of a larger case that is focused on cracking down on the illegal distribution of narcotics throughout Virginia. Over 120 law enforcement officers from 30 law enforcement agencies in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, California, and Texas have worked to execute this major operation. To date, 46 defendants have been charged in this case. Of those, 40 have admitted their criminal conduct and pleaded guilty. Six defendants are currently scheduled for trial.
This case was investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), Operation Cookout. The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, provides assistance to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. This grant program is administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). There are currently 28 HIDTAs, which include approximately 18 percent of all counties in the United States and 66 percent of the U.S. population.
This case also is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C.; Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division; Colonel Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of Virginia State Police; Steve R. Drew, Chief of Newport News Police; and Terry L. Sult, Chief of Hampton Police Division, made the announcement after sentencings by U.S. District Judge David J. Novak. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter G. Osyf, Kevin P. Hudson, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy E. Cross prosecuted the cases.
The following law enforcement agencies provided significant assistance during the investigation and arrest operations: U.S. Marshals Service, Newport News Sheriff’s Office, Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office, York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Amarillo Police, and Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office. Approximately 30 law enforcement agencies assisted in the arrest operation in Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:19-cr-47.