Smoking Dragon

On Tuesday, March 9, 2010 the last of 14 individuals who were charged in part of a 14-month investigation initiated by the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office pled guilty to conspiring to hire a hit man to murder someone he believed had stolen more than 15,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes from him.

This investigation involved individuals paying or trading more than $8 million, over 40 firearms and drugs to purchase 388,000 cartons of cigarettes.  The total cigarette count was over 77 million cigarettes.  These contraband cigarettes where then taken to New York and sold.  Over one million dollars in cash was seized by detectives on November 5, 2009, the day the arrests in this case were made.

The investigation called “Smoking Dragon” started in July of 2008 and ran until October 2009.  Led by Stafford County Detective Todd Nosal, Stafford Detectives Chad Oxley, Vernon Gaylen and Ken Pedigo, as well as agents from the ATF, worked undercover, portraying individuals who could provide contraband cigarettes that did not have the appropriate Virginia or New York State cigarette tax stamps.  During this long and dangerous investigation the defendants in this case also traded more than 32,000 ecstasy (MDMA) pills in exchange for cigarettes.  The ecstasy seizures were a record for the Stafford County region with a street value of $800,000.  Each pill had a value of $15 – $25.

“I am proud of my detectives and the other law enforcement professionals who were instrumental in developing and bringing to a conclusion this case,” said Sheriff Charles E. Jett.  “This investigation was complicated and dangerous and required long hours of hard work, dedication and perseverance.  It is our hope that these arrests send a clear message to others that these crimes will not be tolerated in Stafford County.”

The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office worked in cooperation with the ATF and was assisted by the Fairfax County Police Department, Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Office of Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney Steve Mellin and Special Assistant United States Attorney Patrick McDade, who is on detail from the Arlington County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.

“This is an excellent example of multiple law enforcement agencies working together to bring down a dangerous criminal enterprise,” states Sheriff Charles E. Jett.

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