When Rashourn Niles walked free last summer after two months behind bars, federal agents had already begun the investigation that will put the Woodbridge man back in prison for the next two decades.

Law enforcement had received a tip alleging that Niles’s wife’s son, Tarvell Vandiver, was a high-ranking Bloods gang member responsible for violent crimes connected to the cocaine and heroin trade. That informant helped kick-start a broad takedown in Prince William County of drug dealing and gang crime, issues the Justice Department has focused on under President Trump.

The informant said Niles was Vandiver’s supplier and had taught his stepson how to make crack cocaine.

Niles was arrested again in December and eventually pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria to conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base, five kilograms or more of cocaine and 100 grams or more of heroin. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady sentenced him to the mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison.

“I want to apologize to my family for putting them through this again,” Niles, 37, said in court.

During his brief period of freedom, prosecutors say Niles bought a Bentley, a Range Rover, a Jaguar and a BMW X6, along with Rolexes and a $45,000 necklace.

Rashourn Niles, 37, was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for drug crimes. (Alexandria Sheriff’s Office)

“It’s unfortunate that you seem to drag yourself back into this type of situation,” O’Grady said. “You’re probably pretty good at it; you enjoy the benefits.” But because of the latest charges, he said, “when you get out you’re going to be in your 50s.”

While Niles was not involved with guns, prosecutors argued he bore some responsibility for Vandiver’s violence because he knew his wife’s son was armed when selling drugs.

Niles was born in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and moved with his mother to Virginia when he was 8, according to court documents, staying behind with relatives when she decided to return home. Although he had become more comfortable in Virginia, he struggled in school and became a delinquent by his early teens.

At 16, he was convicted of armed robbery with a group of friends and sentenced to eight years in prison, where he tried and failed to get his GED.

He was released at 24 with a felony conviction and no high school diploma. In letters to the court, his family members said he tried to find work but was not successful. He started selling drugs, and within five years he was in prison again for selling crack. He served four years, but spent the next four in and out of court for violating his supervised release.

Vandiver was sentenced to 20 years in prison and also pleaded guilty to a 2015 murder in Washington.

The two men are among three dozen people who have pleaded guilty to drug and gun crimes in federal court as part of the “Tin Panda” operation, and others face charges in local courts. But Niles and Vandiver received the highest sentences of those who admitted their crimes. A methamphetamine dealer who went to trial received a 40-year mandatory minimum sentence that both the judge and a juror in the case have lamented.  

In his time out of prison, family members said in letters to the court, they saw a different Niles — supportive and kind.

“His criminal background isn’t the son I know,” his mother said in a letter to the court. “Rashourn is a loving kind outgoing generous person,” she wrote, adding that he was “always available to give a helping hand to his family and friends.”

“Somewhere along the way he fell in with the wrong people.” she wrote.

He has two daughters and had helped raise one girl’s half-sibling.

“Rashourn has been an amazing father very attentive, caring and loving,” the mother of those two girls wrote to the court. “Rashourn has made great strides in beating back the effects of his past, and he is determined to learn and grow from this setback as well.”