More than two dozen people across the Washington region were charged with drug or gun offenses, authorities said, as part of a massive effort within a 24-hour window that extended through early Wednesday to disrupt networks of armed drug dealers in the area.
Twenty-two of the 28 were arrested on federal charges in the Eastern District of Virginia as part of what prosecutors in a statement called “Operation Tin Panda.” The other six face state charges in various local jurisdictions.
The joint ATF and FBI investigation of Northern Virginia street gangs began in the spring of this year, prosecutors said in a statement. But court records indicate that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began focusing on following armed narcotics dealers in the area in 2016.
Most of the 22 federal defendants appeared in court Wednesday afternoon on charges that included lying on a form to buy a firearm and distributing large amounts of cocaine, heroine and methamphetamines.
The amount of drugs and guns seized Wednesday has not been tallied. In previous searches as part of the investigation, federal agents said that they seized 71 firearms, 1,292 grams of cocaine base, 4,408 grams of cocaine, 23,838 grams of marijuana, 2,152 grams of crystal methamphetamine, 815 grams of heroin and 36,075 grams of THC gummies.
Law enforcement officials allege that while the accused dealers sometimes used encrypted messaging apps and coded language for their dealings, they often posted pictures of drugs and guns on Instagram and Facebook. Packages of drugs sent through the U.S. Postal Service were traced to their destinations and cooperators also recorded drug buys and identified top distributors, according to the court filings.
Among those ringleaders, according to court filings, is Nasiru Carew, 35, of Dale City, Va., who is alleged to spend much of his time in San Diego and imports drugs from California.
Searching his Maryland residence after his arrest Wednesday, according to court filings, federal agents found about 100 pounds of marijuana in duffel bags.
His organization has shipped close to 1,000 pounds of drugs through the Postal Service, according to federal agents.
Carew is working with the Imperial Gangster Bloods Gang to distribute marijuana, THC-laced gummies, and firearms in the Northern Virginia area, according to one court filing.
Many of the other suspects fear him, according to that affidavit.
Tayvon Patterson was working with Carew and was a high-level drug dealer, according to the court filings, telling lower-level operatives he would improve their lives and, if they got arrested, pay their bond.
“I got million-dollar dreams and federal nightmares,” he posted in one video on his Instagram account, according to an affidavit filed with charges.
Patterson 24, of Elkridge, Md., was charged with marijuana possession in connection with a drug-trafficking crime.
A case filed in September against Frederick Turner was unsealed Wednesday. Turner, 36, of Woodbridge, Va., is accused of being a major player in the local meth business, which is described in one court filing as having a profitable base of gay customers around Dupont Circle.
So is Marcus Harris, 27, of the District, who is set to plead guilty to drug distribution charges Friday, court files show.
Several people named in the charging documents as allegedly involved in the offenses were arrested in regional jurisdictions over the past six months.
Attorneys appointed for the individuals charged Wednesday either declined to comment or could not be reached for comment.
Peter Hermann and Tom Jackman contributed to this report.