Court

BALTIMORE — A man who was part of a cocaine distribution ring in Cecil County has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett imposed the seven-year sentence on Mark “Swanny” Williams, 52, of Elkton, on Thursday during a courtroom hearing. In August, as part of a plea agreement, Williams pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine.

In addition, the judge ordered Williams to serve five years of supervised probation after completing his seven-year term in federal prison.

One of Williams’ two co-defendants, Kevin Purnell Johnson Jr., 37, of Elkton, received an eight-year sentence on Aug. 23 after he, too, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, as part of a plea agreement.

After completing his eight-year term in federal prison, Johnson also must serve five years of supervised probation.

The other co-defendant, Troy Lee Neal, 42, of Elkton, is awaiting his Oct. 26 sentencing after he pleaded guilty to the same two charges during a July 16 proceeding in federal court.

According to the plea agreements, the Maryland State Police, Cecil County Sheriff’s Office, and the Department of Homeland Security identified Williams, Johnson and Neal as suppliers of cocaine after an extended investigation dating back to 2019. The conspiracy members distributed crack cocaine to multiple customers in Elkton, federal prosecutors reported.

During that state-level investigation, a Cecil County Circuit Court judge issued an order authorizing the interception of wire and electronic communications of Williams and his co-conspirators, according to federal prosecutors. Intercepted text and telephone communications revealed Williams as a member of the drug distribution conspiracy, federal prosecutors reported.

Williams, Johnson and Neal were arrested in June 2020, and they were charged with importing cocaine into the state, possession of a large amount of cocaine and other offenses, after a surveillance operation culminating an investigation that had started approximately one year earlier, court records show.

Investigators involved in that surveillance operation focused on a Lincoln Navigator as it traveled from Elkton to Bronx, N.Y., according to charging documents in that now-closed Cecil County case. At the conclusion of the operation, investigators confiscated more than one pound of cocaine with an estimated wholesale value of $20,000, court records showed.

The seven-hour-long surveillance operation was conducted from the night of June 13, 2020 into the early-morning hours of June 14, 2020 by Cecil County Drug Task Force (CCDTF) agents and Maryland State Police Special Investigation Section (SIS) members, police reported at the time.

It marked the culmination of an “extensive investigation in which Johnson, Williams and Neal were observed involved in suspected drug transactions,” police said.

Based on information gained from that investigation, police added, Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith A. Baynes granted the drug agents a search warrant for Neal’s residence on East Village Drive on June 3, 2020.

The surveillance operation started at approximately 7:15 p.m. on June 13, 2020, with investigators monitoring a black Lincoln Navigator driven by Neal and occupied by Johnson and Williams as it departed from Neal’s East Village Road residence, police reported.

“Surveillance indicated Neal’s Lincoln traveled to The Bronx in New York, a known source area for cocaine,” court records alleged.

Neal’s Lincoln arrived at that location in The Bronx at about 10 p.m. on June 13, 2020 and then at 11:53 p.m., 2020, less than one hour later, it left and traveled south toward Maryland, police reported.

At 2:05 a.m. on June 14, 2020, the Lincoln arrived back at Neal’s residence and, also based on surveillance, Neal and Johnson got out of that vehicle along with two women, police said.

At the same time, police added, a white Nissan sedan pulled up in front of Neal’s residence, and Williams got out of that vehicle – before he, Neal and Johnson entered Neal’s residence.

Then at 2:12 a.m. June 14, 2020, some seven minutes later, CCDTF agents and SIS members raided Neal’s residence, court records showed.

During the court-approved search of that residence, investigators found and confiscated 500 grams of “compressed suspected cocaine, several bags of suspected marijuana, an operational digital scale and several cellular telephones,” court records alleged.

There are about 453 grams in a pound, meaning the total weight of the confiscated suspect cocaine is slightly more than one pound and one ounce.

“The approximate wholesale value of the cocaine seized was $20,000,” according to court records.

The criminal case against Williams and his co-defendants started at the state level, according to court records and Cecil Whig archives.

Late last year, the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office transferred the Elkton-based cocaine importation case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after federal authorities expressed an interest in prosecuting Williams and his two co-defendants.

At that point, Johnson and his two co-defendants, all of whom had been held in the Cecil County Detention Center on no bond after their June 2020 arrests, were placed in federal custody.

Along those lines, as a matter of housekeeping, CCSAO prosecutors dismissed their case here against Johnson on Oct. 29, 2020. Then, less than one month later, CCSAO prosecutors also dropped their cases here against Williams and Neal.

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