Go to Drugs On Our Streets
For Jailed Kingpins, A Cocaine KinshipBy Toni Locy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 19, 1996; Page A01
Just a few months after Rayful Edmond III was sent to prison for the rest of his life for running the District's largest-ever cocaine operation, he met two men who would propel him into a whole new realm of drug dealing.
Sharing the same cellblock with Edmond at the Lewisburg, Pa., federal penitentiary was Dixon Dario Trujillo-Blanco. His brother, Osvaldo, was just a cellblock away. The way federal authorities tell it, the three quickly became friends. After all, they had a lot in common. Besides similar convictions for drug dealing, all three were mama's boys, raised by tough women who taught them their trade.
Before they were sent to prison, the three men were among the largest cocaine dealers in the nation; all three made millions and spent their money with flair, often frequenting the same pricey stores on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
But they had never met until the winter of 1990 in Lewisburg.
By then, Lewisburg was bustling with convicted drug dealers, and according to some federal officials, the dealers were doing a bustling business inside the prison, setting up deals for friends on the inside and the outside.
Even in that milieu, the Trujillo-Blanco brothers stood apart. They were from the supply side of the cocaine world, sons of Griselda Blanco, a leader of a large organization affiliated with the Medellin drug cartel, the original Colombian cocaine-exporting group based in the city of Medellin. They would become Edmond's new Colombian cocaine connection, a replacement for his suppliers from the Cali cartel -- a second, upstart cocaine-exporting group that he had helped make a major competitor of the Medellin group in this country. Edmond's Cali suppliers went to prison when he did.
The story of how the friendship between Edmond and the Trujillo-Blanco brothers led to the arrest Aug. 8 of 13 people in the Washington area is revealed in court documents that cover most of the time since 1990, when Edmond was imprisoned in Lewisburg. The tale begins in Lewisburg, leads directly to Colombia and comes back to the streets of Washington. Its sharpest twist is Edmond's decision to cooperate with the FBI and D.C. police in exchange for a possible reduced prison term for his mother.
The gaps in the dry prose of the legal documents have been filled in by sources who are familiar with various aspects of the Edmond investigation.
The Trujillo-Blanco brothers' connection went to the heart of the ruthlessly violent Medellin cartel. Their mother, dubbed the "Godmother of Cocaine," was one of the most notorious players in the cartel's U.S. operations. Like Edmond's mother, Constance "Bootsie" Perry, Griselda Blanco rose from humble beginnings. Perry peddled pills on Washington's streets; Blanco worked as a pickpocket in New York when she first came to this country from Colombia in the 1960s.
Edmond began his life of crime holding money for his mother as she sold illegal pills. But Perry turned him over to his father for serious training in the drug business. She was captured on a government-made tape recording musing about how easily her son took to the illicit business. One minute he was selling drugs "hand to hand." The next, she said, "he . . . just got too big . . . and up and went out on his own."
The Trujillo-Blanco brothers also were introduced to the drug business at an early age. Blanco, who allegedly killed two of her four husbands, turned to her top financial adviser and her favorite hit man to instruct her sons on the distribution and killing ends of her business, Richard Smitten, who wrote a book on Blanco called "The Godmother," said in an interview last week.
"It's amazing," Smitten said, how much Edmond and the Trujillo-Blanco brothers had in common. "Prison is like a college," where people with similar backgrounds and interests meet and become friends, he said.
Perry, who worked hard to maintain a conservative personal image as the government employee she was, played mostly a supporting role in her son's drug operation.
Blanco, in contrast, was flamboyant, and it was her sons who played the supporting roles. She was as well known for the turbans she usually wore to cover her too-often-dyed hair as she was for being ruthlessly violent. Bob Palombo, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who investigated the Blanco organization, said in an interview last week that Griselda Blanco was responsible for much of the drug-related violence in South Florida during the 1980s. She is credited with perfecting the motorcycle assassination, a popular tactic among South Florida's "cocaine cowboys." And she once had a part interest in a Colombian factory that manufactured girdles and bras with compartments to hide cocaine.
When Edmond met the Trujillo-Blancos, the brothers were two years away from being paroled, but they had plenty of drug connections to offer. And Edmond had plenty of customers eager to do business.
By October 1991, a tipster had told federal authorities that Edmond was back in business, arranging drug deals from prison. From April to October of 1992, the FBI listened in on four prison phones as Edmond brokered deals between the Colombian brothers and various D.C. drug traffickers. Federal authorities listening in on their conversations sometimes caught fleeting references to Perry and Blanco amid the arcane codes Edmond and the Trujillo-Blanco brothers used to arrange large cocaine deals.
The Trujillo-Blanco brothers had been paroled in early 1992 and were back in Colombia. To reach them, Edmond simply made collect calls to Washington area associates who patched him through to the brothers via conference calls.
Two of those associates, according to sources and court documents, were Michael A. Jackson and James Marshall "Jim-Jim" Corbin Jr., both of whom lived in Suitland but supplied cocaine to the District's Trinidad neighborhood, just across Florida Avenue NE from Edmond's old retail drug operation, known as the Strip, on Morton and Orleans places NE.
According to a federal indictment handed up Aug. 8 in Pennsylvania, Jackson and Corbin bought 500 to 1,000 kilograms (1,100 to 2,200 pounds) of cocaine from the Trujillo-Blanco brothers in the months from January to October 1992 and wholesaled it to Washington area drug dealers. Jackson, 36, and Corbin, 25, along with four alleged members of the Trujillo-Blanco distribution wing, were charged in the Pennsylvania indictment with conspiracy.
The indictment describes a scheme in which Corbin traveled to New York and Florida to make drug pickups and members of the Trujillo-Blanco organization came to Washington to collect payments for the cocaine.
In July 1992, law enforcement officials intercepted a drug payoff between Jackson and Corbin and the Trujillo-Blanco organization, seizing about $470,000 in cash, according to a statement issued by the U.S. attorney's office. Not ready to move against Edmond or his Colombian connection, authorities did not make any arrests.
For his role as matchmaker, Edmond collected commissions based on the amount of cocaine the Trujillo-Blanco organization sold to Washington dealers, according to a statement of facts filed Aug. 8 in Pennsylvania when Edmond pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with drug deals he brokered from prison. Edmond's commission payments were picked up by various other associates, who distributed the money as he directed to friends and family members and to lawyers to whom Edmond still owed money.
The Pennsylvania indictment also portrayed Edmond, now 31, as having been a mediator between the Colombians and the Washington dealers. In mid-1992, he persuaded Osvaldo Trujillo-Blanco not to kill Jackson and Corbin, who had not paid him for cocaine delivered to them. Instead, the Colombian upped his price by $10,000 a kilogram -- to $26,000 -- to make up for his losses. Osvaldo Trujillo-Blanco, 25, was killed a few months later in a Colombian nightclub.
After that, federal authorities focused on other Lewisburg inmates who also apparently were jamming the prison's phone lines making drug deals.
In July 1994, the probe swung back to Edmond's associates. His girlfriend, Nicole Etienne, and five others were arrested after Edmond was duped into setting them up with an undercover police officer.
At the time, a defense attorney for one of the six defendants in that case insisted that Edmond had turned government snitch. Law enforcement officials insisted that Edmond had been duped.
Sources familiar with the investigation now say that Edmond agreed in principle to switch sides later in 1994. The deal became official in early 1995, and Edmond began reaching out to Washington area dealers, mainly those who had turned up on the government's 1992 wiretaps.
Edmond told his friends that he was back in business with Dixon Trujillo-Blanco, now 35. Many of them knew that Edmond had lost his connection to the Medellin cartel when Osvaldo Trujillo-Blanco was killed. Sources said the drug dealers did not question Edmond when he told them he had reestablished ties to the surviving brother.
Five men -- Marcus Haynes, 25, Lecount Jackson, 42, Adolph Jackson, 24, Darrell Coles, 33, and Rodney Murphy, 26 -- took the bait Edmond offered, and each went to Lewisburg to meet with him. All but Murphy had met the Trujillo-Blanco brothers before, having bought hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from them with Edmond acting as the broker, according to court papers.
Law enforcement sources describe the five men as distributors a step or so above street-level dealers. They allegedly came to the delivery sites Aug. 8 with nearly $200,000 in cash as down payment on 60 kilograms of cocaine. As FBI agents questioned one of their associates arrested during the sting, his beeper kept going off, flashing codes apparently sent by customers anxious for delivery.
Authorities also noted that the five apparently trusted Edmond completely; none was carrying a gun when arrested last week.
Although many of them were teenagers when Edmond was in his heyday, a law enforcement source said, most of them knew or had dealings with him.
Four of the men have criminal records, including convictions for drug dealing and weapons violations in the District and Maryland. As a result, they face lengthy sentences if convicted on the new federal charges against them. Only Haynes, who showed up at the sting with $65,000 in cash, according to testimony at a bail hearing last week, has no prior record.
Edmond told authorities that he made about $200,000 in commissions from the deals he brokered for Washington area drug dealers. As part of his cooperation with the government, Edmond pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania to a new drug conspiracy charge and agreed to forfeit the $200,000.
John Cornille, the lead DEA agent on the case that originally put Edmond in prison, said in an interview last week that he wasn't surprised that Edmond was able to get back in business so quickly or that he still could tap into the District's cocaine trade seven years after leaving for a federal prison cell.
"Any [drug dealer] then and now would enjoy doing business with Edmond. It would be a claim to fame," Cornille said. "I could see how each and every one of them . . . would like having that on their resume."
That Edmond would do it for his mother was right in character, Cornille said. When Edmond was arrested in 1989, Cornille said, "Rayful was interested in pleading guilty in exchange for a cap put on the sentences of his mom and his three sisters. But the offer was not accepted."
Cornille said Edmond would know how hard prison has been for his mother.
"That would wear on a man," the agent said, especially one who is as devoted to his mother as Edmond is. Until he went to prison, Edmond had never lived more than a few miles from her.
FROM PRISON TO THE D.C. STREETS
1. Rayful Edmond III, who was in prison in Lewisburg, Pa., federal penitentiary, would call someone in the District, who would patch him through via conference call to Osvaldo Trujillo-Blanco who was in Medellin, Colombia.
2. Trujillo-Blanco would arrange a shipment of drugs into the United States.
3. A courier would go from the District to Miami to pick up the drugs, which would be brought back to Washington to be sold on the streets of the District.
© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company