A 34-year-old Baltimore man was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for his role in a heroin and gun distribution ring that netted police more than a dozen weapons, $8,000 in cash and two ounces of heroin when they busted it earlier this year, according to police and the Maryland U.S. attorney's office.
Keith James, 34, of the 5000 block of Harford Road, will also have to serve three years of supervised release, after pleading guilty Monday to possession of heroin with the intent to distribute it and possession of a firearm that he was prohibited from having because of a previous conviction, prosecutors said.
The March bust, which also resulted in the arrests of Ronald Van Price, 38, of Windsor Mill, and Jessica Correa, 24, of Baltimore, was touted by police as a major victory against crime. "They got a major gun dealer off the streets," a police spokesman said at the time.
James' sentencing is the first court conclusion in the case.
In his plea agreement, James admitted to having conspired to distribute heroin, and to obtaining "bulk quantities" of the drug, diluting it with "cutting agents" and then repackaging it and selling large quantities for others to sell in single doses on the street, prosecutors said.
The agreement also acknowledges that, after being arrested and locked up on a gun charge in January, James "made several phone calls to friends and relatives seeking to have them process and sell heroin to help pay his legal and other bills, and to have others obtain and sell firearms on his behalf."
With the help of that information, police raided two apartments used by James in Baltimore in March, recovering "heroin packaging materials and paraphernalia used in the distribution of heroin," multiple kinds of ammunition, a gun cleaning kit, a gun vault and paperwork for a Park Heights Ave. storage unit, prosecutors said.
They then searched the storage unit, where they found more heroin packaging material, 12 guns — many of them loaded — two bullet-proof vests, more ammunition, two holsters and two magazines, prosecutors said.
Police at the time said homes in the 4500 block of Mary Ave., the 5000 block of Harford Road and the 2300 block of N. Rosedale St. were raided as well, as was a home in the 3300 block of Milford Mill Road in Baltimore County.
Correa, of the 2300 block of N. Rosedale St., and Price, of the 3300 block of Milford Mill Road, remain listed as codefendants in related cases at the state level, in which they are facing dozens of gun and drug trafficking charges.
Lynette James, 36, of the first block of Ojibway Road in Randallstown, is also listed as a codefendant.
Asked whether those cases would also be taken to the federal level, as James' case was, Marcy Murphy, a spokeswoman with the U.S. attorney's office, said the office does not "discuss specific charging decisions, but we work closely with the State's Attorney's Office to determine the most appropriate venue for prosecution."