Belmont rocked: Neighborhood drug ring smashes stereotypes

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

Read more on: belmontcrack cocaine


I alway thought that is smelled funny over there in belmont.

Fresh faced and bright eyed St. Anne's Belfield Graduate got 3.5 years! You know dey ain't playin.

Ah "smashes stereotypes" - no. Drugs emerge in every level of society, in all forms, shapes and sizes. Fact is more lower income areas have investigations rather than the middle class or higher income. Drug dealers come from all aspects of society, that has been a fact for decades. College students have been busted, doctors have been busted for writing perscriptions and setting up offices where they do nothing but write perscriptions - illegally. If people believe it is only the city kid from that wrong area who becomes a drug dealer, you are naive.

"One of the members of this conspiracy ... came from a good family," says Heaphy.

Gee.... I wonder where these stereotypes come from? When the prosecuting attorney himself implies that there are "good" and "bad" families, what are the rest of us to think?

There are not supposed to be any "good" people and "bad" people in the eyes of the law. We are all supposed to be equal. I would hope that Tim Heaphy, the local representative of the Justice Department, would refrain from such loaded language in the future.

Good family= One or both parents working, paying their taxes, involved with kids and their activities, not in trouble and covering their bills.

Bad family= baby momma with 3 baby daddies on welfare and Daddies never see the kids cause someone is in jail. Poor employment history.

It is not that tough a division to understand. There ARE good families and there ARE bad families. And everything in between.

so @meanwhile, when your kid brings over a significant other for you to meet, what kind of family would you like to see them coming from? Or you dont care....

This little group is just the tip of the iceberg.

How the hell am I supposed to buy crack now?

Come on, if you have lived in this town for a couple of years you know that some of the worst drug offenders come from privledged wealthy backgrounds. The private school kids, as well as the uva students, pop drigs like they're skittles. Its easy when you have unearned disposable income and family lawyers. I cant begin to explain the amount of people i know that have gotten away with things with a slap on the wrist that would put most of us jail for a decade. The only reason this girl got 3 an a half years is because she was mixing her buisness with poor "townie lowlifes." Those with money do not get in trouble unless they are making an example. George Huegly had to murder someone for people to realize he was a psycho. If i threatend a police officer you can bet id be in jail a long time. So stop calling us poor people bad people. We just cant afford good lawyers.

And to jimi hendrix: it doesnt matter where you come from, it matters who you are.

@jimihendrix...the circumstances you described above does not make a family bad. The circumstances you described may not be your idea of normal, but one should not assume that people are "bad" due to several challenges. Did you know Esperanza Spaulding graduated with a GED...what would you make of someone not having graduated from High School? I agree with "meanwhile." It amazes me how reality can be staring people right in the face (Monticello's over grown and barely noticeable slave burial cite, while TJ's site is enclosed with a beautiful gate or if that's too simple for the deep thinkers...46 days for Zimmerman's arrest) and people still act as we've progressed so far intellectually. The truth is Mr. Heaphy's comments reflect the harsh reality that things have only changed on the surface.

Jimi Hendrix, so you accept at face value the statement that this is a "good" family. Quick question: Was George Huguely the offspring of a "good" family?

My point is that Mr. Heaphy should rethink his words. He might be quick to call the Huguely's a "good" family, whereas you may not. What YOU say is a "good" family might not be what he is saying is a "good" family, and that's sort of my point.

Did you read the article? The offspring of this "good" family is going to federal prison for drug trafficking.

Does this fact (the prison sentence) in any way cause you to rethink your definition of what a "good" or "bad" family are, or to consider that perhaps this is not such a "good" family?

Wealth, privilege, and family name did not prevent this child from becoming a felon. Your definition sounds reasonable, but my point is that Mr. Heaphy should rethink his words. If this really were such a "good" family, I doubt this child would be in prison today.

And it's sad that the person responsible for prosecuting federal crimes in Charlottesville is so quick to label some families as "good" simply because they are privileged.

trendy restaurants?

I agree with others, this is an unfortunate statement for a man in his position.

"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.

There has always been plenty of drugs in play at STAx. The richest parents frequently are less involved with their kids. We definitely ought to think out our terms more clearly "good family".

Anyone can recognize a good or a bad family AFTER you get to know the family, not just by the action of one individual family member. I came from a good family but was a rotten kid. After getting my butt kicked around and appearing in front of a judge, it dawned on me to get it together and make something of myself. So I did. I was lucky to have figured it out at an early age (17 in 1961). It makes no sense for the law or anyone else of us to give commentary on these people or their families. They -as individuals- screwed up, were caught and are now punished. Maybe they will have an "aaha" moment and get it together. There is no need to dramatize and editorialize these folks, their families, or their problems. Take them, their crime and their fate for what it is. Don't make this issue sound like a "60 Minutes" segment with all the accompanying theatrical spin.

There are plenty of drugs at all the local schools, STAb included. One difference there though is that if you have enough money, people will look the other way until you're caught too often.

You know Jimi, you are classic example of the Reagan era mentality that has whatever is left of the so called conservative mindset in a tailspin.Paying your taxes makes you a 'good' family? Bernie Madoff paid taxes, and until he went to jail, so did his kids. Who cares that they were all stealing from their clients, many of whom also paid lots of taxes, even if they were so called 'liberals,' right? So is Bernie a good family man? Was he a productive member of society?

If the lady with 3 children by separate fathers and on welfare never stole a dime, and is so ignorant that she doesn't know how to use birthcontrol, but her kids aren't in trouble, is she bad? I mean, we wouldn't want her to have access to something like Planned Parenthood, now would we?

It all comes down to money for you, doesn't it? If you have it, you are good, if you don't you are bad.

Well said, Jimi Hendrix!!!

"If the lady with 3 children by separate fathers and on welfare never stole a dime, and is so ignorant that she doesn't know how to use birthcontrol, but her kids aren't in trouble, is she bad? I mean, we wouldn't want her to have access to something like Planned Parenthood, now would we?"

... if your going to use and example ay least use one that is a mild possibility of exisiting...

1) she has had access to planned parenthood and didn't use it so that dog don't hunt...

2) even the most ignorant among us know what birth contol is. The people we are talking about have a mindset of unaccountability.

3) It is hardly about money. It is about responsibility. The example used in the article was simple and straitforward. Regardless of the Hugelys of the world a higher percentage of kids become success stories when raised within a framework of an ethical family that teaches reponsibility, humility, compasssion and ambition. We have a lot fewer success stories from homes where the mother is spreading her legs for numerous suitors, living on weflare and going into the drug business with her own offspring.

But you keep thinking that ALL poor people are victims and we will see how much farther into despair that brings the country....

@Bill, I would agree that kids do better under the circumstances you describe. I also know people who were raised in those circumstances who ended up descending into a squalid existence.

My feeling is that some people can't or won't be helped. But we need a social safety net of some kind (1) to help people (of the "good families" you describe) who need it during economic downturns and (2) because we are not exactly a poor society, and even though we may not feel that welfare moms deserve benefits, there is hope that some of their kids will make it out of poverty, and it is just not right to let people starve. Giving them health care (Medicaid) is a public health matter.

I don't care how people become poor or what keeps them there, it's better for society as a whole to give them food and shelter. Compared with what we spend on defense, it's a pittance.

I'd like to see more spending on the middle class, namely, Medicare for all.

I am all for helping anyone help themselves out of poverty.

I am not for enabling someone to wallow in semi poverty and have thier ilk spread like a cancer and overtake the very people who are trying to help them.

Welfare should be workfare. These folks should be required to take classes even if the classes are in parenting and homeopathic healthcare. A good old fashion home economic couse wouldn't hurt either.

Just make a "reach" for the check once in a while....

@Bill, I think we are in agreement. Work or education in exchange for a check seems fair. Of course, who will pay for the classes is another issue . . .

I agree with Jimi. If you say there are no bad families then nobody can use coming from a bad family as an excuse. But a problem with morally evaluating drug offenses is that ever since the sixties there have been thousands of celebrities (including presidents) who have used and even endorsed drugs. And even when they admit it was a mistake they don't admit they did something WRONG. Instead, they say they did something STUPID. Now you shouldn't lock up people up for being stupid! If you are going to lock someone up you have to explain why what they did is WRONG, and where drugs are concerned many of us draw a blank. One simple line of justification is to argue that, absent some high-minded moral objection, people have a duty to obey the law! Democracy requires that people obey laws they didn't vote for, not just ones they personally approve. Call it 'the social contract'. But we have stopped teaching kids this principle. Kids, it's wrong to disobey the law without a darn good reason.

You are all missing the point.

"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.
What reason did Heaphy have to call this "a good family?". He never explains, so we are left to assume his definition of a good family is affluence, wealth, and the country club better than thou attitude adoptes by st annes families. I went to albemarle, my family stayed together, taught right from wrong, loved each other and others, voted, worked, payed taxes, but we were never above middle class. I grew up accross the street from a st annes family and those people were screwed up. But the dad was a doctor, so they have to be a good family, right?
Weather heaphy even belives his comment or not, his choice of words alienates not only those who live on wellfare and have too many children from different fathers (you all are rediculous by the way for focussing on this so much). It alienates the vast majority of us who have lived in this town and have not come from wealthy backgrounds. The choice of words leads us to belive that these famalies should have more expected from them because theyre better people, but in reality theyre just people that paid a ton of money to be surrounded only by people just like them.
As a public official, speaking to the public, Mr. Heaphy should use better language and avoid using language that alludes to his personal beliefs. Especially if he eats out, takes his car to a shop, needs something in his repaired, etc. because those of us who do these things for a living Probably didnt go to private school.

What happened to the nurse found to have his Belmont house full of growing pot a few years ago? At 20K a year for St.Bell's if someone had a choice of going there for say 10 years or going to public school and getting a $200K graduation check at the end, I would take the public schools & 200K check on graduation any day.

Heaphy may well know the family.

Obviously rich folks do drugs too, but crack is an unusual drug of choice.

Her family is very nice, not super wealthy but kind, loving people. They are by no means an "elite" family, but they are middle class and very involved in the community. The dads a realtor and referees local lacrosse. Her sister and brother are both college grads who are kind and well rounded. Where Becca went wrong God only knows. All I can say is anyone that knew her could tell you she was always dying to fit in ... That's how the kids from STAB generally are who aren't from the mega-wealthy families. Always trying to overcompensate, prove who they are in a community that's wrapped up generally in material possessions. Whether or not the prosecutor knew her family, he was correct in saying they ARE a good family; not in the country club way (pretty sure they aren't even members of Farmington) but they actually are great people who have produced two great kids and are involved in our community. Their third kid .... I guess no one will ever truly know what the heck happened to her. I've known her and her twin since they were kids, and while it's sad and shocking, she is getting what she deserved. I know for a fact she was raised better than that.

Cocaine is one helluva drug!

Unfortunately the St Anne's-Belfield upper school and drugs go hand in hand. Many kids avoid the temptation but many fall for it as well. Too bad she couldn't stay away from it all.

Thank you Reality for reiterating my point. Jimi Hendrix et al want to hijack the conversation to whatever their particular agenda is, but my point was the facts mentioned in the article, not whatever right-wing or left-wing ideology a commenter is pushing.

So it turns out Heaphy did know the family and they exhibit many of the traits that most people would consider to allow them to be considered a "good" family. Maybe he didn't speak out of turn, but of course, as Reality notes, no one would know that after reading this article or his remark in a vacuum.

I will repeat that public officials should be careful with their words when it sounds like they are ascribing the qualities of "good" and "bad" on entire swaths of the population.

Get your point meanwhile, should have looked a little deeper

Please don't read into what is not there Bill.

"1) she has had access to planned parenthood and didn't use it so that dog don't hunt..."

I didn't say she didn't, but you don't know if she did either. Ly Lord, I went to school with Catholic girls who didn't have any clue about how you got pregnant, so I can see them not being aware of things like Planned Parenthood.But my point really was that the 'right' minded folks so quick to categorize good family as money do everything in their power to remove things like Planned Parenthood.

"2) even the most ignorant among us know what birth contol is."

Wrong. Read above number one, and knowing that it exists doesn't mean you know where and how to get it. That's why education is a powerful thing.

"We have a lot fewer success stories from homes where the mother is spreading her legs for numerous suitors, living on weflare and going into the drug business with her own offspring."

Gee Bill, where is the man in this? Notice how you focus on the woman and the family being like that? What about the men who come in and ecnourage her to spread them, with promises about having a family, and being together, and making something productive.

I do not agree that there are more success stories out of backgrounds like the Hugelys, unless you count money as the final success. Warren Buffet did not come from a St Anne's background. Neither did Soros, or Mother Teresa. Instead, they come out of middle to lower middle class families.

How in the world does this have anything to do with the family? Good or bad? Anyone remember Michael Skakel? He was a cousin of the Kennedy's, born with a silver ladle in his mouth...didn't stop him from murdering 15 year old Martha Moxley with a golf club. Sometimes opportunity and upbringing have nothing to do with how far the apple falls from the tree. Good can come from bad just as easily. We do everyone a dis-service by assuming their end based on their beginning.

GOD JUDGES PEOPLE NOT YOU !!!!!... Why do you care what was happening unless you were the one buying????? Remember that these people have families that love them that had nothing to do with all this ... you are hurtin innocent children ,friends, and families by the things taht you say.. just leave them alone and let then do their time ... Becca is a good girl and always will be ... you cant help who u love .And while your out her pointing fingers at others make sure your slate is clean ... i can guaranteee you its not ...everyone has a past

Just curious, how come we don't get to hear where the others went to high school and what their parents do?

Bottom line: we are all connected. It doesn't matter where you came from, who you married, how many children you have and by whom. stop the divide and conquer rhetoric. What matters is we failed as a community. I am sure if we examine the backgrounds of Ms. Sims or her brother Mr. Richards we will find a history of physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by people in our own community. This however does not negate accountability. What we should be doing is examining how, where, why and when and considering proactive solutions.

Well said...

thank you.

It was wrong to name the father of one of the criminals just to support your thin thesis that these people came from "good families." He is probably upset enough about this without the Hook contacting him for comment. You have added to this family's pain and possibly hurt the father's business by devoting a paragraph to his livelihood and good works in the community.
What were you hoping to accomplish, and why didn't you name the other cons' fathers? I expect better from the Hook.

Years ago my sister's husband Jim Ennis got on the cover of C-ville weekly in an expose (and rightly so). He killed himself that weekend. About every 100 years we scandalize Charlottesville, the last time was 1901. I would say to everyone involved serve your time and be better yourself when you get out, you'll get over this.

I fail to see how selling cocaine is morally wrong, except that it's against the law. But people break a lot of laws and so long as they don't kill or maim anyone and have good connections they usually get off with a light sentence. Athletes,politicians and rock stars with their uninterrupted drug use and 14 year old girlfriends come to mind.I bet half the more stylish people in Charlottesville are regular cocaine users and as a UVA student leader said back in the day, somebody's gotta sell it or else how can we get high? So while I don't take any illegal drugs I think society is pretty divided on the question and it just strikes me as black comedy when someone gets a stiff sentence for doing things that most educated people condone.

PS to my last comment. In talking about rock stars I don't mean anyone in Charlottesville. I know of no immoral conduct on the part of any local rock musician. I'm thinking about a variety of famous name bands and musicians I have read about over the years.

1. Prep school kids like and deal drugs? Sorry, but that doesn't exactly smash any stereotypes...

2. In a way, I feel bad for the guy -- his parents named him Reagan, apparently right after the 1980 election. Could he have turned out any other way?

Huge, profitable, and widespread illegal drug use goes AGAINST the stereotype in Charlottesville??

What planet are you folks living on. Better stated, what have you been smoking?

Meanwhile, an organization caught 6 times trying to help pimp out 14 year old girls is promoted as a solution.. LOL! Keep it classy, Charlottesville!

This article is a joke. Where to begin? First of all, I would like to know why Becca was the star of the article, when maybe the author should have been focusing on the "CEO" who got 20 years? Second, why would the author feel the need to bring her father into it, and throw salt in his wounds and the rest of the family's..... This story should have presented the facts, not focused on ONE member and her family just because of the high school she went to. Where is the background information on the rest of the people involved? Why don't we get to know THEIR parents' names and occupations? This just proves that this is not a serious newspaper, but a gossip column full of smut. I know everyone has the right to free speech, but that doesn't mean that it's ok to trash someone's family who had nothing to do with the offenses committed. Get it together. Lisa Provence, you should be ashamed. I hope you sleep well at night knowing the added pain you have caused the innocent members of Becca's family, who had nothing to do with any of this, and have been dealing with it for quite some time. You're an embarrassment and I hope this poorly written piece of garbage gets retracted soon, for the sake of your career and reputation as a so-called "journalist". I'm sure the National Enquirer is hiring, maybe that is more appropriate to your skill level.....

The Hook delights in torturing people's families with huge mugshots that they don't have the decency to remove even after the people in them have been found not guilty, served their time, or even after they are dead. They seem particularly happy to harm the innocent families(particularly wealthy families-after all they have no feelings right?) that are already suffering immense pain. The Brannocks are not the first and won't be the last these vultures who feed on human misery recklessly damage.
Whatever pathetic wage the owner of this paper that isn't fit to line birdcages pays Ms. Provence surely won't be enough to buy back her soul.