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Also Admits Illegally Possessing a Firearm; Defendant Expected to be Sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison

Baltimore, Maryland – Cephus Albert Powell, age 54, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to being a felon in possession of a firearm and to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.  

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office; and Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur stated, “All too often, guns and drugs go hand in hand—and both are killers, especially fentanyl.  We are committed to getting both off of our streets and to reducing violent crime in our neighborhoods.  If you use a gun, you could face federal time, where there is no parole—ever.  Please, put down the guns and save a life—maybe even your own.”

“Guns and drugs take far too many lives in our communities, and Cephus Powell was contributing to the devastating impact of both in Baltimore City,” said Jennifer C. Boone, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal drug operations.”

According to his guilty plea, in April 2019, law enforcement officers were investigating drug trafficking activity in the 1400 block of Mosher Street and installed a covert camera to monitor the area.  Between April 23 and April 29, 2019, law enforcement observed Powell conduct suspected hand-to-hand drug transactions in this area.  Powell followed the same basic pattern each day:  He arrived to the location in the morning using a ride service, then placed a white bag inside the first-floor window of a vacant rowhouse at 1417 W. Mosher Street.  Powell conducted what investigators believed were hand-to-hand drug transactions using a large white Styrofoam cup to store the suspected narcotics.

As detailed in his plea agreement, on April 30, 2019, law enforcement officers were watching the covert camera and saw Powell engage in what they believed to be a hand-to-hand drug transaction.  At approximately 7:20 a.m., moments after they observed the suspected drug transaction, law enforcement officers located and detained Powell, retrieving his Styrofoam cup, which he had placed in a nearby trash can.  Inside the cup, investigators seized 23 red and clear gelcaps, each containing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl; 20 clear top vials each containing crack cocaine; and 13 green top vials containing cocaine.  Powell also had $2,161 in cash on his person.  Investigators then looked inside the window of the vacant rowhouse at 1417 W. Mosher Street and retrieved a white bag.  Inside the bag was a .40-caliber handgun, loaded with seven live rounds; 230 red and white gelcaps containing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl; two knotted plastic bags each containing crack cocaine; 46 clear top vials each containing crack cocaine; 20 green top vials each containing cocaine; and a digital scale.

Subsequent DNA analysis conducted pursuant to a federal search warrant confirmed that the handgun contained Powell’s DNA.  A review of the video footage from the covert camera revealed that at approximately 6:45 a.m. Powell had opened the front window at 1417 W. Mosher Street and placed a white bag inside.

In total, law enforcement recovered approximately 96 grams of a mixture of heroin and fentanyl; 20 grams of crack cocaine; and three grams of cocaine.  Powell admitted that he possessed the drugs with the intent to distribute them.  Powell further admitted that he had a previous felony conviction which he knew prohibited him from possessing a firearm or ammunition.

Powell and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Powell will be sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.  U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III has scheduled sentencing for January 14, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. 

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI Strike Force Group, the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, the DEA, and the Baltimore Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Anatoly Smolkin, who is prosecuting the case.

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