Feds Indict 29 People in Plano, TX for Drug Deaths
On July 22, Federal officials indicted 29 people for their alleged connection to recent heroin overdoses in Plano, TX, an affluent suburb of Dallas (Linda Stewart Ball, "29 suspected drug dealers indicted," Dallas Morning News, July 23, 1998; Susan Gill Vardon and Marisa Taylor, "29 indicted in Plano heroin ring," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 23, 1998; C. Bryan Hull, "29 are charged in North Texas drug overdoses," Houston Chronicle, July 23, 1998; Associated Press, "29 Charged in Drug Case Linked to Fatal Overdoses in Texas City," New York Times, July 23, 1998, p. A14; Betsy Blaney, "Dealers worked to hook young people, agents say," Forth Worth Star-Telegram, July 23, 1998; "Suburban Heroin," USA Today, July 23, 1998, p. 3A).
Plano has experienced an unusually high number of fatal drug overdoses recently -- 17 in the past four years. The population of Plano is about 188,000 (Susan Gill Vardon, "Parents recall overdose deaths of their children," Forth Worth Star-Telegram, July 23, 1998).
The drugs allegedly distributed by the defendants led to four fatal heroin overdoses in a five-month period starting last summer. "The indictment further alleges that the conspirators specifically targeted Plano and the young people of the community of Plano as a new market for their drug," said Mike Bradford, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. He added that the suspects "intentionally and in a very calculated and cold-blooded way, distributed" heroin and cocaine with the knowledge that it was killing people.
Most of the suspects are young men who have attended Plano high schools in recent years, according to Bradford. Those named in the indictment were accused of a conspiracy to distribute black tar heroin and cocaine. Each of the 29 defendants has a different defense attorney. Four of the suspects are out on bond in a drug rehabilitation clinic. The others are in jail, with different bail set for each.
A 15-month multi-agency investigation sought Federal drug conspiracy charges to allow prosecutors to charge the suspects as a group and seek harsher sentences than they would be able to get under state law. Under Federal law, prosecutors can seek sentences ranging from a mandatory minimum of 20 years up to life imprisonment if death results from the use of drugs distributed by the defendant (21 USC 841(b)(1)). Under Texas law, none of the defendants faced more than 20 years in prison. "This is the first time we've used this provision of the law in the Eastern District to specifically link drug dealing to drug-overdose deaths," said Bradford (Jayne Noble Suhler and Linda Stewart Ball, "Little-used law invoked in Plano heroin deaths," Dallas Morning News, July 24, 1998).
Mike Bradford, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas - 350 Magnolia, Suite 150, Beaumont, TX 77701, Tel: (409) 839-2540, Fax: (409) 839-2550.
Plano Police Department - Crime Prevention Office, P.O. Box 860358, Plano, TX 75086-0358, Tel: (972) 516-2431, Fax: (972) 516-2519.