Baltimore Man Sentenced to Nine Years in Federal Prison for Illegal Possession of a Firearm in a School Zone and for Possession With Intent to Distribute Fentanyl and Other Drugs

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III sentenced Vashawn Watkins, age 22, of Baltimore, Maryland, today to nine years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for federal charges of illegal possession of a firearm in a school zone and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.  

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Jarod Forget of the Drug Enforcement Administration – Washington Division; Baltimore City Sheriff John W. Anderson; Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department; and Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department.

According to his guilty plea, from October 2020 through March 1, 2021, Watkins was engaged in drug trafficking involving large amounts of fentanyl and other controlled substances.  Watkins and his associates operated a stash house in the unit block of Clovelly Street in Pikesville, Maryland, where they processed fentanyl and other drugs, mixed the drugs with cutting agents, and packaged the drugs for re-sale.  Watkins and his associates then drove the packaged drug products to drug shops operated by their drug trafficking organization, along Stricker Street, School Street, and Gilmor Street in Baltimore.  Watkins sometimes oversaw the drug trafficking operations at the Stricker Street drug shop.

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As detailed in his plea agreement, on February 11, 2021, while Watkins was overseeing operations at the Stricker Street drug shop, law enforcement officers saw Watkins place a firearm inside a vehicle parked in the 1500 block of North Stricker Street.  Law enforcement obtained a search warrant for the vehicle and recovered a loaded .45-caliber firearm.  Also found inside the vehicle was Watkins’ state-issued identification card.  Watkins admitted that he knowingly possessed this.45-caliber loaded firearm within 1,000 feet of a public elementary school. 

On March 1, 2021, Watkins was seen leaving a residence in the 1500 block of Stricker Street and taking possession of approximately one kilogram of fentanyl from an associate who had brought the drugs from the Pikesville stash house.  Watkins took the fentanyl into the residence.  Law enforcement obtained and executed a search warrant for the residence, recovering the drugs, which were in close proximity to Watkins.  Law enforcement also recovered two loaded 9mm handguns from the residence.  A search warrant was subsequently executed at the Pikesville stash house and law enforcement recovered 6.8 kilograms of fentanyl, along with cutting agents and other drug paraphernalia.

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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.  PSN, an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime, is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work 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.

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United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the DEA, the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office, the Baltimore Police Department, and the Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason D. Medinger, who prosecuted the case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/project-safe-neighborhoods-psnexile and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.

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