Family business: Reagan Richards, 31; his nephew, Rashard Richards, 18; and Rashard's mom and Reagan's sister, Teresa Sims, 38.
St. Anne's-Belfield grad Rebecca Brannock, 23, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.
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With its trendy restaurants, remodeled houses, and close proximity to downtown, Belmont has enjoyed at least a decade as the hip district for Charlottesville's young professionals. It turns out that some of them were professional dealers in a substance not usually associated with a gentrifying part of town: crack cocaine.
The Belmont-based crack organization had its own dedicated telephone hotline for customers to place their orders, and some of the buyers earned six-figure incomes, says U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy.
"One of the members of this conspiracy went to an elite private high school in this area and came from a good family," says Heaphy.
Rebecca Lee "Becca" Brannock, a 2006 graduate of St. Anne's-Belfield, a private school with annual tuition topping $20,000, often sold crack at her residence and reserved in her own name the hotel rooms used to package the crack and to arrange sales, court papers note.
Her father is real estate broker Tommy Brannock, recently named by the Daily Progress as one of its "Distinguished Dozen" for his good works. He declined to comment.
Heaphy says that the kingpin was Reagan Richards, 31, who used his trusted nephew, Rashard Richards, 18, to run the enterprise that included the alleged kingpin's sister as well as Rashard's 38-year-old mother, Teresa Sims. In all, 11 people were arrested, says Heaphy.
Six street-level dealers acted as drivers, stored the product, and rented hotel rooms to convert coke to crack and package it for distribution. Nearly 8,000 hits of almost 4,000 grams were sold in little more than a year between June 2010 and October 2011, says the prosecutor.
Six people were sentenced April 12 in U.S. District Court for conspiracy to distribute the drug that has been blamed for decimating a generation:
• Reagan Richards got 20 years,
• Rashard Richards received 7 1/2 years,
• Laurel Ann Carson, 49, was sentenced to 30 months,
• Brannock got 3 1/2 years,
• Montana Mawyer, 23, also received 3 1/2 years, and
• Teresa Sims was sentenced to 9 years in prison.
Charles Edward "Rock" Gibson, 23, was sentenced the following day to seven years in prison. Four others will be prosecuted in state court.
The conspiracy began after Reagan Richards got out of prison in 2009 and with his nephew, stole between 20 and 25 ounces of coke from a Charlottesville dealer, according to court papers. Reagan Richards sold an ounce of cocaine a week on his own, and through his minions, sold an ounce of crack weekly.
Reagan and Rashard Richards had a client who lived near Zion Crossroads to whom they sold at least $30K worth of crack, say investigators. To another regular customer, they fronted $900 worth of coke a week. The Richardses didn't like to carry more crack with them than they were selling in one transaction, and used the women to hold crack in their underwear.
Brannock held between 1/4 ounce and an ounce of coke in her undergarments at least 40 times, according to one court document, although the document she signed had that number crossed out and between "10 and 20 times" was handwritten in.
Between June and September 2011, the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement task force, JADE, bought crack 10 times from the enterprise. On August 29, when police attempted to bust the uncle and nephew and Rock Gibson. Rashard Richards swallowed cocaine, says a court document. He was arrested August 30.
When the Richardses and Brannock realized they were the targets of an investigation, they fled, although Brannock turned herself in pretty quickly, while Reagan Richards hid out in Lake Monticello, Louisa, and Crozet, according to court records. He was arrested October 26.
While drugs and violence typically go hand in hand, the only violence noted in court documents was a December 20 assault against someone known as "Individual A" who was walking down the street and punched in the back of the head. The incident is still under investigation.
Noteworthy to U.S. Attorney Heaphy about this case is that it defies the stereotype of crack as a drug used by poor people in an urban area.
"These folks live all over Charlottesville– in places like Belmont and elsewhere within our wonderful community," he says. "They are our neighbors and friends. Yet they struggle with the lure of crack cocaine, fast money, and drug addiction."
–updated April 16