Cornell M. Jones, the reputed narcotics kingpin of Hanover Place NW, was sentenced yesterday to nine to 27 years in prison and fined $250,000 on a charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Federal prosecutors said a former assistant manager of a branch of the First American Bank helped Jones launder cash from cocaine sales and place nearly $600,000 in safe deposit boxes.
Jones, 29, who pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge in late November, was described yesterday by U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova as a "seller of death." DiGenova said Jones operated "one of the largest [narcotics] organizations ever known" in the Washington area, "dispensing millions of dollars worth of drugs" each week, mostly from Hanover Place, which until police staged a massive sweep there last month was the city's busiest and most brazen cocaine "supermarket."
According to a presentence statement submitted by prosecutors, Brenda Douglas Pollard, former assistant manager of the First American branch at 444 North Capitol St., "assisted" Jones by changing "large amounts of currency in small denominations" into $50 and $100 bills that were placed in safe deposit boxes at the bank.
Police said they seized $598,000 from the safe deposit boxes after Jones was arrested Oct. 29.
Records taken from Jones' house at 6204 Guinevere Ct. in Glenn Dale "revealed that . . . Pollard had authorized some cash and check transactions which were indicative of 'money laundering,' " according to the statement submitted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys E. Thomas Roberts and David S. Krakoff.
DiGenova said Pollard has not been arrested or charged, but said an "active investigation" of her activities is continuing. Pollard could not be reached for comment. Francis G. Addison III, chairman of the board of First American, said the bank is "cooperating completely" with investigators. He said Pollard had left the bank "some time ago" but declined to say whether she resigned or was fired.
Pollard is the second employe of a Washington bank to be named by prosecutors recently in connection with narcotics money laundering. On Monday, William G. Hessler, former manager of the Watergate branch of the Riggs National Bank, pleaded guilty to failing to report a $450,000 cash deposit that prosecutors said came from cocaine sales.
In court yesterday, Jones, dressed in prison khakis and white canvas shoes, told U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green that he was "sorry . . . if I caused anyone in the community any harm."
His attorney, Daniel Slattery, said most of those who bought drugs on Hanover Place, a short blighted block near North Capitol Street and New York Avenue, "came from the suburbs." He said Jones had grown up on the block in poverty, but in recent years had "contributed to charities in that community."
Slattery said that "because of the inequities of modern society" many people in low-income areas "see [narcotics] as the only way to advance economically."
In his statement to Green later, diGenova said Slattery's remark was "an insult to the thousands of people from similar backgrounds who do not use or sell drugs" and called it "a corrupt, twisted and sick notion of individual responsibility."
Roberts said that altogether police seized $1.4 million in cash from Jones' home and safe deposit boxes along with jewelry and furs worth $500,000, and more than six kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $1.9 million. He said police estimate that Jones' organization sold enough cocaine to support a "moderate" habit for 10,000 people a week.
So far two men have been arrested whom prosecutors describe as top "lieutenants" of Jones'. DiGenova said others may be arrested soon, although as part of the plea arrangement diGenova promised not to place any charges against members of Jones' family or his girlfriend.
About two dozen of Jones' family members and friends were in Green's courtroom yesterday. Green told him she was imposing the sentence because of the "extraordinarily unique negative impact of your actions."
Under federal parole guidelines, he probably will serve 12 to 15 years in prison. DiGenova said he was "thoroughly pleased" by the sentence, even though he had asked that the maximum 30 year penalty be imposed.
Police said Jones was arrested in the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill after paying $30,000 in cash to undercover officers for a one-kilogram package of a white powder that he believed to be cocaine. Roberts said Jones told the undercover police that he would be able to purchase 20 kilograms of cocaine a week.
Roberts said Jones had been convicted twice before of distribution of narcotics and had a long police record as a juvenile, but that efforts to rehabilitate him had "left a trail of failure."