PORTLAND — A Buxton man who helped lead a drug distribution ring that brought cocaine and heroin from New York City to Maine in 2009 and 2010 was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison.

Shareef Nash, known by the nickname “Slow,” was sentenced in U.S. District Court by Judge D. Brock Hornby for conspiracy to distribute cocaine base, cocaine and heroin. He became the 12th person to be sentenced for crimes in the drug operation.

According to evidence presented at Nash’s sentencing, his guilty-plea hearing in September 2011 and at the trial of a co-conspirator, Nash was the Maine leader of a trafficking organization that employed female couriers to smuggle drugs from New York to Maine.

Nash, 34, took shipments of cocaine, which often was smuggled inside the couriers’ bodies, cooked the powder into crack cocaine and distributed the crack to lower-level dealers in Portland, Lewiston and Waterville.

In July 2010, Judge Hornby authorized federal agents to intercept phone calls for 60 days. One call between Nash and another dealer, Hasan Worthy, 36, of Portland, who was found guilty in November and awaits sentencing in April, detailed a planned drug shipment with Worthy, known as “Moto,” and a woman, later identified as Melissa Plaza, 36, of Bronx, N.Y.

Days later, Plaza flew from New York to Portland to meet Worthy. Law enforcement officers found 65 grams of cocaine on her.

After the arrests of Worthy and Plaza, agents continued the phone taps and stopped a 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.

In all, agents seized 250 grams of cocaine from five female couriers, $11,000 worth of cocaine, digital scales, about $6,000 and five handguns.

The others who have been convicted are:

n 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 “D” Berryan, 21, of South Portland; Regina “G-Low” Goins, 26, of Waterville; and Veronica “Roni” Brown, 26, of Gray — each pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Berryan was 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 “Jeep” 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. They 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.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.