September 13, 2012
Contact: SSA Henry Vinson
Phone Number: (215) 861-3474
Former U.S. Army Captain Pleads Guilty To Importing Heroin From Afghanistan Into The United States
WILMINGTON, Del. - Charles M. Oberly III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced today that Saleem Sharif, age 36 of Johns Island, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841 and 846; and possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841. Each charge carries a maximum term of forty years imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum term of five years imprisonment. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for January 15, 2013, at 8:30 a.m.
During the change of plea hearing, Sharif, a West Point graduate and former Captain in the United States Army, admitted that he imported into the United States at least 2.5 kilograms of heroin from Afghanistan while employed there as a contractor. Sharif concealed the heroin in DVD cases, each case containing approximately 2.5 (or 75 grams) of heroin.
One of Sharif’s customers was Darrold Thomas. Thomas, who pleaded guilty to a drug trafficking offense on August 9, 2012, lived in Killeen, Texas. During his plea hearing, Thomas admitted that on two occasions he sold heroin directly to several individuals from the Wilmington area. Thomas stated that he sold approximately 5 ounces of (approximately 140 grams) to Kelvin Cook in Killeen, Texas, in the summer of 2010. Thomas sold the heroin, which was concealed in two DVD cases, for the price of $5,000.00.
Thomas further admitted that he sold approximately 500 grams of heroin to Ronaldo Edmund and Kevin Morris in Washington D.C. in December 2010. Thomas sold the heroin, which was packaged in 7-8 DVD cases, for a price of $30,000.00. Edmund and Morris have each pleaded guilty to drug trafficking offenses in the District of Delaware.
In addition to the two heroin transactions with Cook, Edmund, and Morris, Thomas further admitted that he directed the shipment of approximately 210 grams of heroin, which he had received from Sharif, to a DEA confidential source at an address in Newark, Delaware, in September 2011. As on the other occasions, the heroin was concealed in a DVD case, as well as located within the false bottom of a can of oil.
Ultimately, Thomas placed the source in contact with Sharif directly. On April 27, 2012, Sharif and co-defendant Charles Richardson traveled to Wilmington to meet with the source. They were arrested while meeting with the source in a vehicle outside the Amtrak train station. In a later search, agents found two DVD cases that contained heroin - one in a bag belonging to Sharif, and another in a bag belonging to Richardson. The total net weight of the heroin was approximately 115 grams.
In a post-arrest statement, Sharif admitted to traveling to Delaware for the purpose of selling heroin to the source. He further admitted that he imported heroin into the United States during his time in Afghanistan.
Sharif is the fifteenth individual charged in connection with the Wilmington-based drug organization to enter a guilty plea. Eleven defendants have entered guilty pleas in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, while four other defendants have entered guilty pleas in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Six other individuals remain in custody in Panama. The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement (DEA), the Department of Homeland Security - Homeland Security (HSI), the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigations Division, and the Wilmington Police Department.
DEA Philadelphia Division Acting Special Agent in Charge Vito S. Guarino stated “DEA will continue to work with our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners to identify and investigate traffickers that will seemingly go to any extent to smuggle illicit drugs into the US and sell them on the streets of Wilmington and other communities. The harm caused by illicit drug sales and use cannot be understated and DEA will continue its efforts to confront the dangers posed by drug traffickers as it did here.”
United States Attorney Charles M. Oberly III stated, “I applaud the hard work and cooperation among the DEA, HSI, IRS-CID, and the Wilmington Police Department in tracing drugs sold on street corners in Wilmington all the way to their source in Kabul, Afghanistan. That source, the defendant, violated the trust of his country and his uniform by dealing with Afghani drug traffickers to import heroin into the United States. The defendant’s conviction ensures that he will serve a significant jail sentence as punishment for his actions.”
“This joint investigation is a terrific example of how law enforcement, with support from our partners abroad, were able to successfully dismantle this narcotics smuggling network,” said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of Homeland Security (HSI) in Philadelphia. “HSI will continue to utilize its broad authorities to target those individuals that pose direct threats to our communities.”
“The Wilmington Police Department is proud of its efforts in cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA task force to eliminate a major drug trafficker from this area,” said Wilmington Police Chief Michael J. Szczerba. “The successful prosecution of this subject is another example of the effective, cooperative efforts of local and federal authorities to disrupt drug trafficking organizations operating in and around Wilmington and sends a strong message about our resolve to arrest anyone distributing illegal drugs in the City. Most importantly, the results of this investigation will help to improve the quality of life in our community.”