Man pleads guilty in Duluth crack cocaine ring
A Minneapolis man -- who was arrested last September when Duluth police, the Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force and federal authorities made the second-largest seizure of crack cocaine in city history -- has admitted to his role in a distribu...
A Minneapolis man -- who was arrested last September when Duluth police, the Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force and federal authorities made the second-largest seizure of crack cocaine in city history -- has admitted to his role in a distribution ring.
Antonio Derrick Smith, 36, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul to conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. He was initially charged in St. Louis County District Court, but that case was dismissed when the U.S. Attorney's Office took over the prosecution and obtained a grand jury indictment of Smith and eight co-defendants on Feb. 19.
Investigators from the Duluth police Neighborhood Impact Team arrested Smith last September after a traffic stop. He allegedly was in possession of 305 grams of crack, more than a pound of marijuana and about $5,900 in cash.
Police said the crack cocaine seized would have served hundreds of illegal drug customers in the Twin Ports. The distribution ring operated in the Duluth area from January 2008 until February of this year.
Participating officers called the investigation of the drug trafficking ring "Operation Big Deal II." Operation Big Deal I resulted in the arrest of two dozen members of a cocaine and crack cocaine distribution ring in 2007. The leader of that ring, Bernard Vann, was sentenced to 126 months in prison last fall.
Seven of Smith's co-defendants earlier entered guilty pleas for their role in the conspiracy. Smith faces a potential maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
According to the criminal complaint, a confidential witness told police that a black Suburban would be at Sixth Street near Second Avenue East on Thursday with a "load" of crack cocaine to be sold in Duluth.
Investigators from the Neighborhood Impact Team formed in August by Police Chief Gordon Ramsay to patrol neighborhood trouble pulled over the Suburban after the driver failed to signal a turn.
Two packages of crack cocaine were found in Smith's front left pants pocket. The defendant has a 2001 conviction for selling cocaine in Ramsey County.