A three-year investigation involving the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office led to the largest seizure of illegal drugs and illicit goods in Loudoun history last year, Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) said Wednesday during a joint press conference with federal officials.
In February 2020, authorities with the LCSO and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized more than $5.3 million worth of cocaine, crack cocaine, fentanyl, heroin and marijuana, as well as $1.4 million in cash and seven illicit firearms.
“This is the work that is done behind the scenes, that the public does not often hear about, that keeps our communities safe,” Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) said at a Wednesday press conference in Alexandria.
The LCSO collaborated with the DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) on the investigation.
“As you all know, operations such as this keep our community safe,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh said.
“Operation Angels Envy” began in May 2017 with work by LCSO detectives who were assigned to a regional DEA task force, according to LCSO First Lt. Paul Laconti.
Detectives identified Roger Vincent of Temple Hills, Maryland, as a narcotics distributor operating out of a network based in Hyattsville, Maryland.
“Vincent was supplied drugs from sources on the west coast who were shipping large quantities of illegal drugs to the east coast, often by tractor-trailer,” Laconti said Wednesday.
Vincent was arrested in October 2018 and in June 2019 was sentenced to 15 years in prison, according to EDVA.
Last year’s seizure was part of a tactical operation that resulted in the arrests of three men on distribution charges: Romaine Dixon of Camp Springs, Maryland; Lamonte Young of Frederick, Maryland; and Isaac Anane of Sterling.
Dixon — who was sentenced to 140 months in prison in January — regularly coordinated the transportation of narcotics from California to Virginia through a commercial shipping company, according to EDVA.
The shipping company was not aware it was transporting illicit materials, which were disguised as standard shipments, Laconti said.
Law enforcement learned in February 2020 that Dixon had arranged for the transportation of drugs in wooden crates from California to Loudoun County, information that led to the subsequent seizure.
Chapman said that the amount of fentanyl alone that was seized — 2 kilograms, plus 100 individual fentanyl pills — was enough “to kill every man, woman and child in Loudoun County two times over.”
Investigators involved with “Operation Angels Envy” ultimately tracked drugs distributed in Loudoun across seven states — including Maryland, Ohio and Missouri — to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.
That cartel was famously led by former Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, who has been in U.S. custody since 2017. Its current leader is Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García, said Chapman.
Guzmán Loera’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, was arrested Feb. 22 at Washington Dulles International Airport in Loudoun County for alleged involvement in her husband’s operation.
Coronel Aispuro received charges of conspiracy to import and distribute varying quantities of cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin and marijuana.
She also allegedly assisted Guzmán Loera in his 2015 escape from Altiplano Prison in Mexico. He was re-arrested in 2016 and extradited to the U.S. the following year.
“We must realize this issue is not unique to our [southern] border states but affects all of us, even in one of the most safest [sic] counties in the United States,” Chapman said.
“Operation Angels Envy” in its three-year span resulted in 5,970 pounds of drugs and $5.3 million in U.S. currency seized overall, as well as charges filed against 33 individuals.
“We were able to not just take down the local traffickers, but also work up the chain of distributors and suppliers to hold accountable those in the transnational criminal organizations who are driving the production and distribution of dangerous narcotics that have been poisoning our communities,” Parekh said.
One of those arrests was connected to the fatal November 2019 shooting of DEA agent Jorge Del Rio in Dayton, Ohio, according to EDVA Special Agent in Charge Jarod Forget.
“These criminals employ fear, violence and intimidation to traffic drugs, and in doing so exacerbate a drug overdose crisis that claimed more than 90,000 American lives last year,” Forget said.
The nationwide investigation also resulted in the seizure of 114 firearms, including 32 rifles, 81 handguns and one sawed-off shotgun, according to officials.