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Maryland heroin dealer sentenced to 10 years in prison

BALTIMORE — A Baltimore man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for smuggling heroin from India and the Philippines into the United States following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, the Baltimore City Police Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

James Bridgeforth, 38, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr., to 10 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin.

According to Bridgeforth's guilty plea, in 2010, Bridgeforth orchestrated the delivery of several packages of heroin from India and the Philippines to Baltimore. Bridgeforth ordered these packages by contacting individuals with Ghanaian telephone numbers. Individuals in India and the Philippines subsequently sent the narcotics packages to properties in Baltimore that, in most cases, were either vacant or owned or controlled by Bridgeforth or his co-conspirators. These packages were sometimes addressed to fictitious recipients. Bridgeforth and other members of the conspiracy paid for the narcotics by providing cash to an intermediary for the supplier, depositing money into bank accounts that belonged to other co-conspirators, and/or sending money via Western Union or Moneygram, in some cases under false names, to individuals in India, Ghana, Peru and elsewhere.

Examples of narcotics packages include: one sent from New Delhi, India, that contained approximately 489 grams of heroin concealed within strips of cardboard; one sent from the Philippines to the 2600 block of Orleans Street in Baltimore; and another one sent from the Philippines to Appleton Street in Baltimore that contained 1.221 kilograms of heroin. Bridgeforth and his co-conspirators distributed the narcotics contained in the packages they successfully received.

On Sept. 29, 2010, Bridgeforth was arrested by Baltimore City detectives and Drug Enforcement Administration agents after a traffic stop resulted in the seizure of approximately 14 grams of heroin, seven 22-gram bars of mannitol, and two one-ounce containers of quinine, which Bridgeforth used to "cut" heroin for street sale.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Kaul and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Celeste, a cross-designated Baltimore City Assistant State Attorney assigned to handle drug cases.