Pittsburgh Man, Howard Johnson Pleads Guilty in Cross-Country Cocaine Trafficking Ring
A Pittsburgh resident pleaded guilty in federal court to a violation of the federal narcotics laws, United States Attorney Cindy K. Chung announced today.
Howard Johnson II, 32, pleaded guilty to an Indictment charging him, and 26 other codefendants, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine before United States District Judge W. Scott Hardy.
In connection with the guilty plea, the Government advised the Court that the prosecution of Johnson arose out of a two-year investigation into a drug trafficking organization whose members distributed kilograms of cocaine, sourced from Mexico, throughout the United States (in California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere).
The Court was advised that alleged co-conspirators obtained kilograms of cocaine in Los Angeles, California, and sent them to the Western District of Pennsylvania and elsewhere through the United States Postal Service. In connection with his guilty plea, Johnson admitted that he received and transported cocaine-laden parcels that were sent by co-conspirators from Los Angeles, California, to the Western District of Pennsylvania.
In connection with his plea, Johnson admitted that the total quantity of cocaine attributable to him, through his conduct and the foreseeable conduct of co-conspirators, was at least 15 kilograms but less than 50 kilograms. The Court was advised that agents seized in excess of 100 kilograms of cocaine during its two-year investigation into the drug trafficking organization, of which Johnson admitted to being a member.
Judge Hardy scheduled sentencing for Dec. 6, 2022. The law provides for a total sentence of not less than 10 years and not more than life imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Jerome A. Moschetta is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (in Pittsburgh, PA) and the United States Postal Service – Office of Inspector General led the multi-agency investigation that included members of the Drug Enforcement Administration (in Los Angeles, CA; in Tucson, AZ; in New York, NY; in Nashville, TN; at the Special Operations Division; and in Mexico); the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General; the Los Angeles Police Department; the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police; the Allegheny County Police Department; the New Castle Police Department; the Monessen Police Department; and the Pennsylvania State Police.
This prosecution is a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles high-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten communities throughout the United States. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.