Convicted drug ring kingpin Robert B. Reckmeyer clutched the podium in Alexandria federal court yesterday and confessed in front of tearful family members that he had made millions in "evil" profits.
The 31-year-old Centreville father of three was then sentenced to 17 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
"I admit I made a lot of money," Reckmeyer said after formally signing papers to forfeit $2.5 million in assets, including 4,000 grams of Thai gold, a 1,000 ounce silver bar and scores of sapphires, emeralds and rubies.
"Mostly, I buried it in the ground," Reckmeyer said, his voice cracking as several of his 11 brothers and sisters in the courtroom cried. "I buried my talents in the ground, too."
Along with his older brother, Christopher, Robert Reckmeyer pleaded guilty last month to masterminding a decade-long operation that distributed nearly 300 tons of marijuana and hashish valued at more than $100 million.
Christopher F. Reckmeyer, 33, the owner of the $2.8 million Shelburne Glebe estate in Loudoun County that served as the drug ring's headquarters, is in the Fairfax County jail awaiting his May 17 sentencing.
Even the federal investigators who spent 40,000 hours cracking the Reckmeyer organization lowered their heads as Robert Reckmeyer spoke emotionally of the three months he has spent in jail since his arrest. "If you were to compare my life with the kinds of people I've been living with, you'd have to say, 'I blew it,' " Reckmeyer said. "I believe the good Lord gave me talent and that I used it for evil."
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen P. Tandy told the court that though Reckmeyer says "he has now seen the light . . . we found out last Friday that he has had side deals to collect drug profits from fugitives" since he was arrested. Tandy declined to elaborate further on those activities.
U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris, citing Reckmeyer's "high level of involvement" in the drug operation, sentenced Reckmeyer to 17 years in prison on charges of conducting a criminal enterprise, unlawfully possessing nine Uzi submachine guns, illegally transporting $40,000 out of the country and filing a false tax return.
On Jan. 9, the two Reckmeyers, an alleged third kingpin, Bruce W. Thomason, and 23 others were indicted in the Loudoun-based drug operation. Eleven of those indicted, including Thomason, have not yet been arrested.
Upon conviction on the sole charge of conducting a criminal enterpise, the Reckmeyers each faced the possibility of life imprisonment with no parole. However, last month they entered a plea bargain agreeing to divulge all drug-related information in exchange for lesser sentences.
Robert Reckmeyer's attorney, John Dowd, said yesterday he had hoped his client would receive no more than 10 years because he had agreed to cooperate as a government witness and is "now a part of the fight against narcotics." Dowd appeared shocked when the 17-year sentence was pronounced and, along with his client, declined to comment.
But Bernard S. Bailor, Christopher Reckmeyer's attorney, said he was very unhappy about the sen-tence: "They're just hippies from the late '60s and early '70s . . . . It's a pretty heavy sentence for marijuana."
Robert Reckmeyer's wife, Patricia, and his brother-in-law, James S. Adams, also were sentenced yesterday for their involvement in the drug ring.
Patricia L. Reckmeyer, 29, of Centreville, who pleaded guilty last month to filing a false tax return, was given a three-year suspended sentence.
Adams, 30, a Northern Virginia real estate agent from McLean, who earlier pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute marijuana and hashish, was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $5,000. Adams told Cacheris that he had declined when his two brothers-in-law had offered several years ago to promote him within the drug organization. He told the judge, "I am sorry for hurting my country."
Other valuables officially forfeited by Robert and Patricia Reckmeyer yesterday included 46 emeralds, 32 rubies, 18 sapphires and $200,000 in cash. The Reckmeyers also relinquished the $227,000 certificate from the recent sale of their farm in Fauquier County.
Dowd said of the Reckmeyer couple, "They're absolutely penniless."