Durham County

3 convicted of area drug dealing draw total of 85 years in U.S. prison

Three Durham men face decades in federal prison for their parts in a drug-trafficking ring that prosecutors said distributed heroin, cocaine and marijuana in the Triangle and was protected by Durham members of the United Blood Nation street gang.

In U.S. District Court, Maurio Tajara Mitchell, 34, was sentenced to 35 years, Mark Anthony Daye, 47, to 30 years and Sandy Darnell Ledbetter Jr., 27, to 20 years.

The three were the last members of what federal agents called the Maurio Tajara Mitchell Drug Trafficking Organization to be sentenced.

Six others were given sentences ranging from nine months to 16 years after being convicted of federal drug-related crimes last year and earlier this year.

An investigation by the Raleigh-Durham Safe Streets Task Force began with a wiretap in January 2016 on Mitchell’s phone and became public in a series of arrests in early April last year.

One of those arrests involved FBI agents and U.S. Marshals Service deputies smashing into an apartment in Cary. Others happened in Cary and Durham, including one on the campus of Duke University, authorities said at the time.

In announcing the sentences, which District Judge James C. Dever III handed down Dec. 13, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the state’s Eastern District said the drug ring distributed powder cocaine brought from Los Angeles and Mitchell and Daye had connections there.

Mitchell was convicted of conspiracy to possess and distribute at least 5 kilograms of cocaine, a kilogram or more of heroin and an unspecified quantity of marijuana. He also was convicted of having a gun to help commit a drug crime and of conspiracy to launder money.

Daye was convicted of the drug conspiracy charges and conspiracy to launder money.

Ledbetter was convicted of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and having a gun in order to further a drug crime.

Ron Gallagher: 919-829-4572, @RPGKT