A West Baltimore drug dealer was sentenced to 24 years in prison for conspiring to distribute enough fentanyl to kill the population of Maryland, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
James Johnson, 50, was sentenced March 7 to 24 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release, according to the DOJ. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute between 12 and 36 kilograms of fentanyl, the DOJ said.
Because 2 milligrams of fentanyl is enough for a fatal dose, 12 kilograms of the synthetic opioid could kill 6 million people — nearly the entire population of Maryland.
“More and more people are dying from fentanyl overdoses in Baltimore City and throughout Maryland,” U.S. Attorney for Maryland Robert K. Hur said in a statement. “We must do everything we can to reduce overdose deaths from this drug and from all opioids.”
Hur’s office announced last year it planned to bring more state drug cases involving fentanyl to federal court.
Law enforcement agencies investigated Johnson and other drug dealers operating in the Gilmor Homes neighborhood in West Baltimore from July 2016 through March 2017, according to the DOJ. The justice department said Johnson and co-conspirators, including Brooklyn, NY, resident Sharafa Buhari, 52, were distributing fentanyl and heroin in Baltimore and elsewhere.
On Jan. 21, 2017, law enforcement officials stopped Buhari and two other people on their way to an address associated with Johnson with 2.45 kilograms of suspected heroin. Buhari was later arrested as he attempted to fly to Nigeria, his home country.
Police then recovered 8,500 grams of fentanyl, 17,250 grams of heroin, six firearms, and approximately $700,000 in cash from houses associated with Johnson while executing a search warrant in Baltimore on March 22, 2017.
Johnson had been on supervised release for a previous federal drug conviction at the time of the investigation. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett found Johnson violated the terms of his supervised release and sentenced him to another 15 months in prison, to be served concurrently with his 24-year sentence.