Steven J.R. Blackwell Sentenced to 20 Years

Steven J.R. Blackwell, a discreet and up and coming young drug kingpin before a 2008 kidnapping of two of his younger brothers brought him to public attention, was sentenced today to 20 years in prison, followed by five year's of supervised release, for his part in a 6-year conspiracy to distribute heroin. "Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are working together to target drug dealers whose criminal organizations foment violence," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in a statement e-mailed to reporters.  "Federal drug and tax charges will keep Steven Blackwell in prison for two decades and make the streets of Baltimore more safe." Blackwell, 27, flew quietly under the public's radar for about five years or so as he amassed millions of dollars and a fearsome street reputation. (His father, Steven Sr., is also a drug dealer and was sentenced to federal prison in 2006.) J.R. had not been arrested since he was a juvenile when, in the spring of 2008, federal law enforcement authorities issued an "amber alert" following the armed kidnapping of two of Blackwell's brothers. J.R. took matters into his own hands and, working through a lawyer, quietly paid a $500,000 ransom. Reportedly, the kidnappers were part of his down line, and they thought Blackwell had been overcharging for the heroin he was bringing down from New York suppliers. Soon after the young Blackwells were safe, bodies started dropping. There was a shooting at the used appliance store run by the alleged kidnappers' family, killing the patriarch. There was the infamous backyard

.  Last fall the



Justin Fenton

Police could never link Blackwell directly to any of the shootings, but they didn't have to. Turns out not paying one's federal taxes is offense enough to get some serious time. "The IRS plays a unique role in federal law enforcement's counter-drug effort in that we target the profit and financial gains of narcotics traffickers which comprise a significant portion of the untaxed underground economy," said Acting IRS Special Agent in Charge Eric Hylton. (For more on that sort of thing, check

City Paper

's "

"  archives). Along with the usual crazy real estate buys and

, Blackwell and his girlfriend, Joy Edison, tried to mask their drug profits by buying up winning lottery tickets and converting cash into gambling chips in Las Vegas, according to court records. Blackwell owned a $760,000 home in Elkton. All gone, according to U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz's sentence.  He "ordered Blackwell to forfeit any money, property, or assets traceable to the illegal activity, including at least eight pieces of property held in the name of JJM and J Edison, LLC, Steven Blackwell, and Joy Edison, located in Elkton and Baltimore," according to the U.S. Attorney's office.