A D.C. drug kingpin who served nine years in federal prison in a drug case and also ran up $16 million in unpaid taxes as of 1986 pleaded guilty to new tax-evasion charges Tuesday in federal court in Washington.
Cornell M. Jones, 58, a one-time high-school dropout who along with the likes of Rayful Edmond III rose to become a prominent player in the city’s rampant 1980s cocaine trade, admitted Tuesday to concealing $1.3 million due U.S. taxpayers by concealing income from businesses he ran after his release from prison.
In court documents, Jones acknowledged failing to disclose $3.5 million in income in 2010 alone, including proceeds from the sale of his D.C. Tunnel nightclub and other real estate transactions on Queens Chapel Road NE, where he also served as executive director of Miracle Hands, a D.C. government-funded nonprofit counseling center for ex-felons.
“Did you deal extensively in cash for purposes of concealing income?” U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon asked the defendant.
“Yes, Your Honor,” said Jones, who declined to comment after the hearing, as did his attorney, Bernard S. Grimm.
Jones faces a statutory maximum of five years in prison. Leon set sentencing for April 14.
Jones was released from prison in 1995 after being convicted of running a cocaine, marijuana and PCP ring out of Hanover Place NW. Police found $639,500 in bank safe-deposit boxes and $870,000 in cash at his home, plus jewelry, furs, 28 airline tickets to Las Vegas, five guns, cocaine and a currency-counting machine.
In 2008, Jones was profiled as having rebuilt his life in an episode of BET’s “American Gangster” TV series.
But cracks emerged in his story. Miracle Hands’ headquarters was next door to D.C. Tunnel, on property controlled by a Jones family property-holding company formed in 1998. Jones also became executive director of the nonprofit, which supplied housing, meals and therapy to ex-offenders, the homeless and troubled children.
Miracle Hands ultimately received millions of dollars from the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration but was found to have mishandled more than $330,000 in grants.
Court records show that an estimated unpaid tax of $1.8 million on nearly $5 million in unreported taxable income — including proceeds from real estate deals from 2008 through 2013 and $132,000 paid to Jones by Miracle Hands in 2010 — became the basis of the charges to which Jones pleaded guilty Tuesday.