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Man who conspired to distribute enough fentanyl to kill Maryland population sentenced to 24 years in prison

Posted at 12:57 PM, Mar 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-12 12:57:10-04

BALTIMORE — A 50-year-old Baltimore man was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison for his participation in a conspiracy to distribute enough fentanyl “to kill the population of Maryland,” the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland said.

James Johnson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute between 12 and 36 kilograms of fentanyl. Johnson was also in possession of six firearms for use in drug trafficking. In addition to his 24-year sentence, Johnson will serve five years of supervised release and an additional 15 months in prison for violating his previous supervised release.

Since a fatal dosage of fentanyl can be as little as two milligrams, 12 kilograms could produce six million fatal doses, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Maryland has a population of 6,042,718 people, according to the United States Census Bureau.

An investigation into drug trafficking and distribution in West Baltimore’s GIlmor Homes resulted in the interception of cellphone communications of Johnson and his co-conspirators Sharafa Buhari and others. In such communications, Johnson and Buhari arranged meetings in locations in and around the 1500 block of North Gilmor Street and the 800 block of West Lombard Street. In some of those meetings, Buhari can be seen carrying a backpack containing the suspected narcotics.

In one such incident on Jan. 21, 2017, Buhari and two other suspects were stopped by law enforcement after they walked away from a bus that recently arrived in Baltimore from New York, prosecutors said. Law enforcement found 2.45 kilograms of suspected heroin in a backpack and a suitcase the three carried from the bus. After obtaining permission to track Buhari’s phone data, the FBI determined he attempted to buy a one-way ticket from JFK airport in New York to fly to his home country of Nigeria. He was arrested at JFK before boarding the flight. At the time he was in possession of $11,000 and two cellphones among his five pieces of luggage, as well as several adult diapers he was intending on taking to Nigeria.

Searches of several North Gilmor and West Lombard residences executed on March 22, 2017, resulted in the seizure of roughly 8,500 grams of fentanyl, 17,250 grams of heroin, six firearms, and about $700,000 in cash.

Buhari, a 52-year-old Brooklyn resident, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin. He was sentenced to four years in federal prison.