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Allegedly Distributed Enough Fentanyl to Kill at Least 600,000 People and Used Firearms in Furtherance of the Drug Conspiracy

News Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office-District of Maryland

Baltimore – A federal grand jury has returned a second 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 second superseding indictment, which was returned on March 4, 2020, adds two additional defendants and six counts.  The following defendants are charged in the second superseding indictment:

  • Christopher Scott Benton, a/k/a Brisco, age 30, of Hagerstown, Maryland;
  • Jarvis Antonio Coleman-Fuller, age 32, of Hagerstown;
  • Eric Tyrell Johnson, a/k/a E, age 36, of Owings Mills, 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;
  • Philander Alexander Spruill, a/k/a Buddha, age 28, of Hagerstown;
  • Edward Melvin Ware, a/k/a Eddie, age 32, of Edgewater, Maryland;
  • Tyler Lee Ware, a/k/a Bugsy, age 32, of Hagerstown.

The second 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 Sheriff Charles P. Strong.

According to the 15-count indictment, beginning in about April 2019 and continuing to about November 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.  Tyler Ware is also charged with distribution of heroin on July 4, 2019.  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, Johnson, Smith, Edward Ware, and Tyler Ware 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. 

Nelson, Spruill, and Edward Ware have had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore and remain detained.  Benton, Coleman-Fuller, and Smith are expected to have initial appearances today.  Johnson and Tyler Ware are in state custody on related charges.

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. 

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 works 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.        

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 Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.


David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...