First Four Members of Va. Heroin Ring Sentenced
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Her daughter was one of four young people who died from overdoses linked to a Fairfax County heroin ring, and she took the stand in federal court in Alexandria yesterday with a message for parents: It could have been your child.
"We were as involved parents as we possibly could have been," Donna Lannes said as she looked down at the young men who supplied the drugs that killed her 19-year-old daughter, Alicia. Her voice shaking, Lannes implored parents to "understand that you do not know everything, and you can't 'fix' everything."
Lannes's comments came as a federal judge sentenced the first four members of the Centreville-based ring to prison terms ranging from 46 months to 20 years.
The revelation that a heroin ring was operating in Fairfax and has led to at least four deaths has shaken the community. The drug operation involved a tight-knit group of current and former Westfield High School students, prosecutors said. So far, 11 of 15 people charged have pleaded guilty in the drug ring. Their use and sale of large quantities of heroin is part of what investigators say is a larger problem in the Washington region that has gone undetected until recently.
The sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court was an almost mournful proceeding, with grim prosecutors calling for tough sentences, defendants voicing apologies, and defense lawyers not even trying to justify their clients' behavior.
"Your honor, these are awful cases," said Alan Yamamoto, an attorney for Daniel Nash, 19. "In Daniel's situation, but for the grace of God, he's here as a defendant rather than dead as a victim. That's how bad his addiction was."
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema voiced a mixture of anger and pity for the young men but mostly seemed bewildered by it all.
"The amount of drugs is absolutely stunning," she told Lokesh Rawat, 19, who she said has admitted that he started smoking marijuana at 16 before moving on to heroin, cocaine and LSD. "It's important that you get a clear message that you can never again be involved with drugs."
"I don't know your honor, I just started experimenting," Rawat said softly. "I just made some wrong decisions."
Brinkema asked David Schreider, 20, why he felt the need to smoke marijuana at 13 and then do harder drugs such as heroin and ecstasy.
"It was the people I was hanging out with, I suppose," Schreider said. "The crowd."
Rawat was sentenced to 46 months in prison, and Schreider received a term of 63 months. The tougher sentences came for the men who pleaded guilty to supplying the drugs that killed Lannes, who died in March of a heroin overdose. One of them, Nash, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The other, Joshua "J.R." Quick, 21, received a 19-year term. A third man charged in her death is scheduled to go to trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik R. Barnett singled out Quick as the principal dealer in the Centreville community. "One of the tragedies here is that Mr. Quick has a business sense. He literally applied a business model to the sale of heroin," Barnett said. "He undercut his competitors by lowering the price."
John Keats, an attorney for Quick, acknowledged that the judge's sentence would be "devastating" but added: "That's the price that has to be paid in this case."
Donna Lannes said her family misses Alicia "beyond what words can even describe. We remember her every nuance." Alicia's father, she said, still says good night to her as he closes her bedroom door each evening.