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North Carolina man sentenced to 11 years in prison for multiple heroin distribution-related charges

Qwanelle Ruffin, also known as “El Patron,” 28, of New Hanover County was sentenced April 23 to 132 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin; three counts of distribution of a quantity of heroin and aiding and abetting; seven counts of distribution of a quantity of heroin; and possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and aiding and abetting, according to a press release from the Department of Justice, Eastern District of North Carolina. On July 8, 2020, Ruffin pled guilty to these charges.

According to court documents and evidence presented in court, on June 28, 2019, a search warrant was served by the Wilmington Police Department at an apartment at River Front Place. Ruffin, Darion Graham and a third person lived at the apartment. “While the police were conducting the search, Graham and the other person arrived at the apartment complex. They fled upon seeing the police but were ultimately taken into custody,” stated the release. “The search revealed approximately 761 grams of heroin/fentanyl mixture, a quantity of bagged heroin and $16,281 in United States currency. Ruffin was arrested at a nearby bank.”

The investigation uncovered that Ruffin had also been packaging and storing heroin for distribution at residences on Spring Street and 13th Street in Wilmington; Ruffin had been robbed of heroin on two occasions, stated the release.

Between November 2018 and June 2019, the Wilmington Police Department assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Gang Unit conducted numerous controlled purchases of heroin from Ruffin and people that he had deliver for him. “The locations were throughout Wilmington. According to law enforcement, Ruffin was a validated gang member,” stated the release.

Darion Graham was sentenced previously for his role in this drug trafficking organization and received a prison sentence of 365 months in prison.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach, stated the release. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.  “This OCDETF focuses on a Multi-State Drug Trafficking Organization and Gang Activity that has been responsible for the distribution of heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine throughout the United States,” stated the release.

G. Norman Acker III, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after the sentencing before U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wilmington Police Department, Holly Ridge Police Department and New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case; Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Severo prosecuted.

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