For Immediate Release
Leader of Major Drug Trafficking Conspiracy Sentenced to 16 Years
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The leader of a sprawling drug trafficking conspiracy that operated in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, from California to Florida to Massachusetts, was sentenced today to 16 years in prison, as part of a coordinated law enforcement takedown codenamed Operation Tin Panda that to date has resulted in the conviction of 39 defendants on federal firearms and drug charges.
“These cases underscore the insidious intersection between drugs, guns, and gangs,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Mr. Carew’s interstate drug trafficking operation not only supplied drugs to violent members of the Bloods gang, but also engaged in the wholesale distribution of drugs to armed street-level dealers in Virginia, the Mid-Atlantic, and elsewhere along the East Coast. The Operation Tin Panda takedown in December 2017 involved over 300 agents and officers from 16 law enforcement agencies, providing a powerful example of the benefits that flow from the collaborative efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement.”
According to court documents, Nasiru Carew, 36, of Dale City, pleaded guilty on April 13 to conspiring to distribute over 1,000 kilograms (or 2,200 pounds) of marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) edibles since 2012. Carew, who entered the United States as a refugee in 1994, was the leader of a major drug trafficking conspiracy that supplied violent gang members of the Imperial Gangsta Blood set of the United Blood Nation gang, and other non-gang customers. Carew shipped marijuana grown in California to supply his operation in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, and he also coordinated the distribution of THC-laced edibles to sub-distributors in Virginia and elsewhere. A majority of Carew’s business came from supplying wholesale quantities of these drugs to co-conspirators, who were themselves street-level dealers. Many of these co-conspirators distributed controlled substances while armed with firearms.
From 2012 through 2017, the conspiracy netted hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of which was used to purchase luxury vehicles and jewelry, or was laundered through casinos. For example, during a court-authorized search of the defendant’s residences, law enforcement recovered approximately $19,500, as well as gold and diamond jewelry and a BMW i8 vehicle estimated to cost over $100,000.
“Operation Tin Panda has resulted in numerous guns removed from the hands of gang members and drugs taken off the streets of our neighborhoods in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland,” said Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office. “This operation demonstrates the FBI’s ability in coordination with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle significant drug operations, removing the threat posed by the street level dealer to the national level gang leaders.”
“ATF’s top priorities are to protect the public and remove violent criminals from our streets,” said Thomas L. Chittum, III, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division. “Operation Tin Panda reiterates ATF’s and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners’ commitment to pursuing and bringing to justice those that seek to disrupt communities and harm law abiding citizens.”
Carew was arrested in the early morning hours of Dec. 6, 2017, when over 300 law enforcement agents and officers executed a coordinated takedown as part of Operation Tin Panda. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division and the FBI’s Washington Field Office began Operation Tin Panda in the spring of 2017. In collaboration with federal and local law enforcement, investigators and prosecutors began jointly investigating Blood gangs and other drug distributors involved in violent crime and other criminal activity in northern Virginia. Multiple criminal acts were tied to gang and drug activity, including homicide, malicious wounding, robbery, shootings, and drug and firearms distribution. During the course of this investigation, more than 40 individuals throughout Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and California, who were illegally selling firearms and controlled substances or were involved in other criminal acts, were arrested on federal firearms and drug charges.
Operation Tin Panda also resulted in the seizure of over 95 firearms, $150,000 in cash, nine vehicles with an estimated value of over $300,000, and approximately 3 pounds of cocaine base, 10 pounds of cocaine, 7 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 5 pounds of heroin, 4 pounds of ecstasy, 227 pounds of marijuana, and 79 pounds of THC.
Operation Tin Panda was led by the ATF’s Washington Field Division and the FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Safe Streets and Violent Gang Task Force. The DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Prince William County Police Department, Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, Fairfax County Police Department, Alexandria Police Department, Stafford County Sherriff’s Office, Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office, King George County Sheriff’s Office, Caroline County Sheriff’s Office, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, Prince George’s County, Maryland Police Department, and the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, provided significant assistance during the operation.
Operation Tin Panda was investigated as part of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Thomas L. Chittum, III, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division, and Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office, made the announcement after Carew’s sentencing by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carina A. Cuellar and Colleen E. Garcia prosecuted the case.
For more information, please see the table below, which lists the name, age, hometown, respective charge(s), and resulting or potential sentence for each federal defendant charged as part of Operation Tin Panda.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER.