Baltimore, Maryland – Karon Elijah Peoples, age 24, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to a heroin distribution conspiracy. Peoples admitted that during his participation in the conspiracy, he was responsible for distributing, or facilitating the distribution, of between nine and 10 kilograms of heroin. In addition, Peoples admitted that nine fatal overdose victims and 18 overdose survivors had contacted Peoples’ phones prior to their overdose—either by phone call or text message—in order to arrange for the purchase of heroin.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Don A. Hibbert of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office; Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler and the other members of the Harford County Narcotics Task Force–Harford County State’s Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly, Colonel William M. Pallozzi, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police, Chief Henry Trabert of the Aberdeen Police Department, Chief Charles Moore of the Bel Air Police, and Chief Teresa Walter of the Havre de Grace Police Department; and Director Tom Carr of the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).
According to Peoples’ plea agreement, during the fall of 2017, law enforcement began conducting an investigation of Peoples after learning that he was supplying significant quantities of heroin to customers throughout Maryland who traveled to Baltimore City to obtain the heroin. As part of the investigation, law enforcement conducted controlled purchases and undercover purchases of heroin from Peoples.
On December 7, 2017, search warrants were executed at Peoples’ residence, at a stash location on West Lexington Street in Baltimore, and on his vehicle. Law enforcement recovered 900 grams of heroin, $405,156 in cash stored in a blue checkered Louis Vuitton bag, a Rolex watch, a money counter, and digital scales and other drug paraphernalia from the stash location. Law enforcement also recovered 68 grams of heroin from the vehicle.
On December 7, 2017, and on January 9, 2018, when Peoples was arrested as the result of a federal arrest warrant, law enforcement seized a total of 49 cellular phones from Peoples and the search locations. A court-authorized search of the phones revealed hundreds of text messages between Peoples, his co-conspirator, and his customers arranging for the acquisition, purchase, and sale of heroin. The text messages also established that Peoples was part of the conspiracy from no later than May 2015 until his arrest in January 2018.
The Harford County Narcotics Task Force and DEA coordinated with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies through the assistance of the HIDTA Investigative Support Center to collect information about customers of Peoples who were heroin overdose victims. After running searches for the 49 cellular telephones possessed by Peoples, law enforcement found links between cases involving a total of 27 overdose victims—nine who died as a result of the overdose and 18 who survived. The victims, who resided in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, had contacted Peoples’ drug phones prior to their overdoses in order to arrange for the purchase of heroin.
Peoples faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin; and a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison for possession with intent to distribute heroin. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for October 16, 2018, at 3:00 p.m.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the DEA, the Harford County Narcotics Task Force, comprised of members of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, Aberdeen Police Department, Bel Air Police Department, Havre de Grace Police Department and the Harford County States Attorney’s Office, and the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Derek E. Hines and Seema Mittal, who are prosecuting the case.