Three Plead Guilty to Drug, Gun Charges
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—The first three of nine defendants charged with federal drug distribution conspiracy charges pled guilty today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville.
James Alexander Clore, 23, of Culpeper, Va., Renee Harris, 43, of Charlottesville, Va. and Marcus Lee Strother, 23, of Culpeper, Va., were indicted in August 2014, along with six other individuals, on charges related to a conspiracy to distribute cocaine and heroin.
“Mr. Clore, an armed drug dealer, along with Ms. Harris and Mr. Strother, imported and sold large amounts of crack cocaine and heroin, endangering the health and safety of our community,” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “Because of the effective work of a multi-agency team of investigators, their illegal business has been dismantled and our safety enhanced.”
Today in District court, Clore pled guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 280 grams or more of crack cocaine, one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and one count of possessing and using firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Also today in District Court, Strother pled guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin. Harris pled guilty to a lesser offense of conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute crack cocaine.
According to a statement of facts proffered today in court by the United States, during the summer of 2013, several individuals living in the Culpeper area organized and established themselves along with individuals from Charlottesville for the purpose of selling crack cocaine, heroin and firearms. The group came to the attention of law enforcement in late 2013 and was known informally as “Culpeper & Associates.” Clore has been identified by law enforcement as the “second in charge” and “right hand man” in Culpeper and Associates.
In December 2013, law enforcement believes a rival group, known informally as “South First Street,” stole a gun from a vehicle owned by a member of Culpeper and Associates. The suspected robbery set off a series of four different shootings between the two groups during the months of December 2013, February 2014, April 2014 and May 2014. Due to the threat to public safety, the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement Task Force (JADE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration immediately began an investigation into the activities of each group.
The investigation established that beginning in January 1, 2013, members of Culpeper and Associates were involved in the trafficking of narcotics and firearms, multiple shootings and the establishment and maintenance of a drug involved premises at 366 Riverside Avenue, an apartment within the City of Charlottesville and within 1,000 feet of Riverview Park.
At sentencing, Clore faces a maximum possible penalty of up to life in prison and/or a fine of up to $10 million on the cocaine conspiracy charge and a maximum possible penalty of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1 million on the heroin conspiracy charge. Clore also faces a mandatory five years in prison on the gun charge. Harris and Strother each face up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1 million on the cocaine conspiracy charge. Strother also faces up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1 million on the heroin conspiracy charge.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement Task Force, the Charlottesville Police Department, the Albemarle County Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Culpeper Police Department and the Commonwealths Attorney’s Offices for the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle. Special Assistant United States Attorneys Joseph Platania and Assistant United States Attorney Ronald Huber, with the assistance of third-year University of Virginia Law student Sarah Brigham, are prosecuting the case for the United States.