Two men were arrested yesterday and five kilograms of pure cocaine with a street value of more than $2 million was seized in one of the largest cocaine busts ever made in the Washington area, officials reported yesterday.
Thomas Brock Burgess, 32, of Lake Worth, Fla., and John Clark Yates, 29, of Marietta, Ga., were arrested shortly after 11:30 a.m. in an Arlington hotel after they were said to have given five bags of undiluted cocaine to two federal narcotics undercover agents who paid them $290,000 cash in the transaction, officials said. The money was recovered.
"They were major distributors between Washington and Florida," said David G. Canaday, special agent in charge of the Washington office of the Drug Enforcement Administration. He said both suspects were charged with distribution of cocaine and ordered held on $1 million bond each.
Canaday said an investigation determined that the two men distrubuted large amounts of cocaine in the Washington area, as well as in other states along the East Coast, including Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
The arrests followed a four-month undercover investigation by a task force of investigators from the Washington office of DEA and the D. C. Police Department, Canaday said.
Two undercover narcotics agents, posing as cocaine dealers, made several contacts with Burgess and Yates, the official said. The agents had several conversations with the two men both in person and by telephone in Florida and here, Canaday said.
Burgess and Yates were quoted as telling the investigators that they could provide them with as much as 20 kilograms of pure cocaine every two weeks, Canaday said.
Canaday said the two men had a direct link to a cocaine conversion laboratory in Columbia South America, where cocaine is illegally processed and shipped to the United States.
Canaday said the arrests yesterday were made on the basis of an investigation that disclosed that the two suspects operated in the high echelon of cocaine dealing.
He described a major distributor as a person who sells cocaine to dealers who will "cut," or dilute, the drug several times before it has reached that level of the organizational structure that puts it on the street for sale. Cocaine sold on the street generally is diluted to a point at which it is about 22 percent pure, about the quality of cocaine currently selling on the streets of Washington for $100 a gram, Canaday said. This calculates roughly to nearly a half million dollars a kilo of undiluted drug.
The two undercover agents had gained the confidence of the two suspects over the four-month period, Canaday said, eventually arranging to buy the five kilograms of cocaine, he said.
About 11:30 a.m. yesterday, they met with the two men, who had flown here Tuesday, in a sixth-floor room of an Arlington hotel, officials said.
After the exchange of the money and the cocaine, the two men were arrested. Bond was set at a hearing in a U.S. Magistrate Court in Alexandria.
After the arrests, D.C. Poice Chief Burtell M. Jefferson criticized the City Council for refusing to incorporate in a new narcotics law a provision that would provide mandatory jail terms for drug dealers.