PORTLAND — A key figure in a large-scale drug ring that smuggled cocaine, crack and heroin from New York for distribution in Maine is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
Shareef Nash, 34, of Buxton, was a top dealer at the Maine end of the drug ring, taking in shipments of mostly cocaine that women in the network smuggled inside their bodies on planes and cars from New York. The drugs were distributed in packages to lower-level dealers in the Portland area.
Nash, also known as “Slow” or “Motion,” pleaded guilty in a plea agreement on Sept. 2, 2011, to a charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine base, cocaine and heroin, aiding and abetting. He faces 10 years to life in prison and fines up to $10 million.
U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby authorized investigators on July 2, 2010, to intercept phone calls in the case for 60 days, allowing federal agents to hear conversations between Nash and another high-level dealer, Hasan Worthy, of Portland, according to a criminal complaint filed in Worthy’s case by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
Worthy, 36, was found guilty in federal court in Portland on Nov. 7 on four counts: conspiracy to distribute cocaine base, cocaine and heroin, aiding and abetting; two counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, aiding and abetting; and one count of using a communication facility in committing drug felonies.
Authorities intercepted calls between Nash and Worthy, also known as “Moto,” from July 16 to July 18, 2010, in which they planned a drug shipment with Worthy and a woman referred to on the phone as “M,” who would fly from New York to Maine, according to the affidavit.
Law enforcement officers stopped Worthy and the woman, later identified as Melissa Plaza, 36, of Bronx, N.Y., at the Portland International Jetport when they arrived on July 18, 2010.
They arrested Plaza, seizing nearly 65 grams of cocaine from her, and interviewed Nash outside the terminal, where he was waiting with others in a car in the passenger pickup area, court records say.
After Plaza’s arrest, agents continued the phone taps and stopped another shipment of drugs, by car, from New York to Maine on Aug. 5, 2010. They seized more cocaine from women who were bringing it to Nash for distribution, according to court records.
Authorities allege that Nash took the cocaine to his home to cook it into crack cocaine and package it in “bombs” containing 28 pieces of crack that sold on the street for $50 each. Nash would charge lower-level dealers $1,000 per “bomb,” which they could resell for about $1,400 to street-level dealers.
In addition to Nash, Worthy and Plaza, 11 people in Maine were charged in the case. All of them have pleaded guilty or been found guilty.
After Nash, only two remain to be sentenced: Worthy and Worthy’s girlfriend, Nicole Webster-Gersey, 34, of Portland. They are scheduled for sentencing on April 22.
Plaza was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
Others convicted are:
* Nash’s girlfriend, Sasha Phillips, 25, who lived with him in Buxton and helped to assemble crack into “bombs” for distribution, deliver them to retail distributors and return the money to Nash. She was sentenced on Feb. 1 to 108 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
* Three “retail distributors,” Dereck Berryan, 21, of South Portland; Regina Goins, 26, of Waterville; and Veronica Brown, 26, of Gray. They all pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Berryan has been sentenced to serve 64 months in prison, Goins to 60 months and Brown to 84 months.
* A key person on the New York end of the ring, Daneek Miller, 34, of New York, N.Y., who pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, aiding and abetting, and was sentenced to 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
* A driver, Kevin Stuckey, 28, of South Portland, and his girlfriend, Pedra So-Melony, 21, of Portland. Both pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy and were sentenced to 45 months and 36 months in prison, respectively.
* Two other drivers, Sondra Cordero, 31, of Buxton and Noelle Hoey, 30, of Biddeford, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and were sentenced to supervised release after being in jail for months awaiting sentencing.
* John “Vito” Palaia, 61, of Westbrook, who rented vehicles for Nash’s group in exchange for crack. Palaia pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced to four months in prison, followed by four years of supervised release.