Cocaine ringleader enters guilty plea

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A Baltimore man who led a major cocaine distribution ring while imprisoned in a state correctional institution pleaded guilty Monday to several drug-related charges and was sentenced to another prison term of 23 1/2-60 years.

When he was in Altoona, Damion Kareem Floyd, 35, was known as “Benny.”

Police tagged him as the leader of a drug organization that every couple of weeks brought a kilo of cocaine to Altoona and, using the former Corner Bar at 1001 Eighth Ave. as its headquarters, packaged the drug for sale and distributed it to lower-level dealers.

Floyd’s problems began in 2010 when while making a drug run from Baltimore, the vehicle he was in was stopped by state police in Bedford County.

Police found 371 grams of cocaine in a Louis Vuitton bag inside the car.

On May 3, 2011, Bedford County Judge Thomas S. Ling sentenced Floyd to four to eight years at a state correctional institution.

James Walstrom, supervisory agent for Bureau of Narcotics and Drug Control in the Attorney General’s Office, described Floyd as “intelligent” following Monday’s sentencing by Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron. He said Floyd came up with a plan to continue his drug activities while he was serving the Bedford County sentence.

Floyd created an organization that included his fiancee, Natasha Miller, a former state prison inmate, Jermaine “Shawn” Samuel, and a childhood friend, Rodney “Rocco” Williams.

Communicating regularly by phone and letters with his associates, Floyd was able to oversee steady flow of drugs and money between the two cities.

Police determined that the Baltimore source for the cocaine was Williams.

The organization prospered, and while police knew the name “Benny” from local individuals who had dealt with Floyd, they didn’t know he was leading the organization from a jail cell until they began listening to phone calls that included Miller, Samuel, Williams and a local distributor Kenneth Jon Piner Sr. in October 2011.

On Nov. 3, 2011, drug investigators used air and auto surveillance to follow two Altoona women making a drug run to Baltimore.

After picking up 365 grams of cocaine at Williams’ Baltimore home, the women returned to Pennsylvania where officers were waiting. Police stopped the car, found the drugs and made an arrest.

That signaled officers to serve arrest and search warrants throughout the city during the early morning of Nov. 4.

Fourteen members of the organization were taken into custody and charged with multiple drug offenses.

Officers also searched Floyd’s cell in the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, where they found letters that confirmed in their minds that Floyd was the boss.

Since then, Miller was sentenced to 16-32 years, Samuel to 46-103 years, Willams to 21-42 years and Piner to 36-72 years.

Floyd through his attorney, Thomas Hooper of Duncansville, fought the charges claiming double jeopardy. Blair County Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle rejected that argument.

That brought Floyd into court Monday morning for jury selection, but Walstrom said plea discussions had been underway for several days.

Floyd, although the leader of the group, ended up with a sentence that could see him out of prison by his mid-50s.

Walstrom said the fact Floyd entered pleas rather than going to trial worked in his favor to get a lesser sentence than if he had been convicted by a jury.

“Mr. Floyd was anxious to resolve his matter. He wanted to put it behind him,” said Hooper, in discussing the plea agreement.

Had Floyd been convicted, he thought he could end up with the equivalent of a life sentence, Hooper said.

The sentence imposed by Milliron will run concurrent with the Bedford County sentence, which means it began as of Monday even though the Bedford County sentence is not completed.

He will also receive credit for time served since February 2012 when he was formally charged with the most recent offenses. Those included possession with intent to deliver cocaine, dealing in unlawful proceeds and operating a corrupt organization. He was fined $52,500.

Floyd is the next to last of the major players arrested in what police dubbed Operation Last Call to have his case resolved.

Next up for trial is Stephen Piner, Kenneth Piner’s brother.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.