Two More Defendants Charged with Federal Crimes Related to a Heroin and Fentanyl Trafficking Operation in Washington County | USAO-MD

Baltimore – A federal grand jury today returned a third superseding indictment charging eight defendants with federal charges related to a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, specifically fentanyl and/or heroin in Washington County, Maryland.  The third superseding indictment adds two additional defendants.  The third superseding indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to distribute enough fentanyl to kill at least 600,000 people, and possessed firearms in furtherance of the drug conspiracy.  The following defendants are charged in the third superseding indictment:

Christopher Scott Benton, a/k/a Brisco, age 30, of Hagerstown, Maryland;
Jarvis Antonio Coleman-Fuller, age 32, of Hagerstown;
Sirage Ekwan Carter Delaney, a/k/a Drama, age 41, of Hagerstown;
Eric Tyrell Johnson, a/k/a E, age 36, of Owings Mills, Maryland;
Michael Eugene Lyles, a/k/a Big Mike, age 45, of Frederick, Maryland;
Jeroam Edwin Nelson, Jr., a/k/a Boob, age 30, of Hagerstown;
Thamar J. Smith, a/k/a SK and Skoal, age 46, of Hagerstown; and
Philander Alexander Spruill, a/k/a Buddha, age 28, of Hagerstown.           

The third superseding indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office; Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore; Chief Paul “Joey” Kifer of the Hagerstown Police Department; and Washington County State’s Attorney Charles P. Strong, Jr..

According to the 14-count indictment, beginning in about April 2019 and continuing to about September 2019, the defendants conspired to distribute heroin and/or fentanyl in the Washington County area.  During the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized narcotics, including at least 1.2 kilograms of fentanyl, four firearms and ammunition, and at least $16,223 in cash.  All of the defendants are charged with being members of the conspiracy.  Smith, Johnson, Spruill, Nelson, and Coleman-Fuller are charged with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and/or heroin; Johnson, Spruill, Nelson, and Coleman-Fuller are charged with being felons in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition; Spruill and Coleman-Fuller are charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; and Coleman-Fuller is charged with possession of body armor by a violent felon.

If convicted, Benton, Nelson, and Spruill face a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 10 years in federal prison and up to life in prison for the drug charges; Coleman-Fuller, Delaney, Johnson, Lyles, and Smith all face a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five years in federal prison and up to 40 years in prison for the drug charges; Coleman-Fuller, Nelson, and Spruill each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for being felons in possession of firearms and/or ammunition; Johnson faces a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 15 years in federal prison and up to life in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm; and Coleman-Fuller and Spruill face a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison, consecutive to any other sentence, and up to life in federal prison for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  Coleman-Fuller also faces a maximum of three years in federal prison for possession of body armor by a violent felon.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

No initial appearance has been scheduled for Delaney and Lyles. 

An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings. 

Edward Melvin Ware, a/k/a Eddie, age 33, of Edgewater, Maryland and his twin brother, Tyler Lee Ware, a/k/a Bugsy, age 33, of Hagerstown, who were charged in the second superseding indictment, have each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl.  Edward Ware pleaded guilty today and his brother pleaded guilty on October 28, 2020.

According to their plea agreements, from at least April 2019 through November 2019, the Wares were members of a drug trafficking organization (DTO) that operated in Hagerstown and elsewhere, distributing kilogram quantities of fentanyl and heroin, which DTO members acquired from sources of supply in Baltimore, New York City, and Mexico.  DTO members, including Tyler Ware, also possessed firearms and ammunition in furtherance of their drug trafficking activity.

In June 2019, the Washington County Narcotics Task Force learned that the Wares were two of the primary retail distributors of narcotics for the DTO and were being supplied by at least three different wholesalers associated with the DTO.  Law enforcement officers witnessed Tyler Ware and Edward Ware engaging in drug-related transactions with two of their wholesale suppliers and overheard numerous conversations with DTO members during which they discussed suppliers, types, amounts, and prices of narcotics; the locations, size, and pace of narcotics transactions; and the storage and disposition of narcotics, proceeds, and distribution paraphernalia.

As detailed in his plea agreement, between June 13 and June 23, 2019, Eddie Ware was overheard discussing plans to sell at least 23 grams of fentanyl and discussing at least $7,475 in narcotics proceeds.  During the same time frame, Tyler Ware was overheard discussing plans to sell at least 55 grams of fentanyl and at least $3,925 in narcotics proceeds.  It was reasonably foreseeable to the Wares that the conspiracy would involve—during this 10-day period alone—at least 94 grams of fentanyl.

The Wares face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison for the conspiracy.  U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow has scheduled sentencing for Edward on March 9, 2021 and for Tyler on February 16, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) 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. 

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws.  Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.  For more information about Project Guardian, please see: https://www.justice.gov/projectguardian.    

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.    

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the DEA, HSI, the Washington County Narcotics Task Force, and the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation, and thanked the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office for its assistance.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey J. Izant and Christina A. Hoffman, who are prosecuting this case.

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