HENRICO, Va. – A Henrico County man who law enforcement called “one of the more careful drug dealers they have arrested” pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that he distributed “significant quantities” of heroin in parking lots throughout Short Pump.
Shawn Lamont Bailey, 45, was the principal organizer of a heroin distribution network in the Richmond area, confirmed Matthew C. Ackley, a deputy commonwealth’s attorney
Bailey landed on the radar in June 2013, Ackley said, when police were investigating an overdose death. Police utilized phone records of the young woman who died and determined where she got her heroin, which eventually led to Bailey.
A large investigation, involving local police and the Drug Enforcement Administration, determined that Bailey distributed only to other drug dealers.
He would drive to New York City about every other week, then sort and pack the dope from his West Broad Village apartment, Ackley said.
“Ultimately it appeared he was doing this all in his apartment,” Ackley said. “[Police] thought he may have had another stash house, it was a surprise.”
Bailey dealt in plain sight in parking lots throughout suburban Short Pump. He met dealers outside locations like Home Depot, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Target, supplying them with anywhere from half an ounce to a couple of ounces of heroin.
At one point during surveillance, customers returned to their car outside McDonald’s. When a plainclothes officer walked past, he could see the people prepping their heroin, Ackley said.
Ackley explained that officers witnessed hand to hand exchanges, saw Bailey pull heroin from the center console of the vehicle and cash exchanges were made.
When Baily was arrested he had around a quarter kilogram, or roughly eight ounces of heroin.
“That’s a lot of heroin,” Ackley said. “It’s not a drop in the bucket; it’s a significant arrest.”
They estimate the total weight Bailey distributed in Richmond at around 25 to 35 kilos.
There were a lot of moving parts to the investigation, Ackley explained, and police didn’t want to jump the gun, but Bailey’s deliberate movements also stretched out the investigation.
“He was one of the more careful drug dealers we arrested,” Ackley said. “He was pretty religious about replacing his phones. He was extremely careful.”
Police made the arrest on July 6, 2016, after tracking Bailey for three years.
Bailey was the hub of the local operation, and his arrest led to the arrest of around six to seven redistributors, Ackley said. After that, about a month later, six or seven lower level distributors were arrested.
When asked if officers were surprised to find such a high volume narcotics distribution operating in plain sight in Short Pump, Ackely said “maybe at the very beginning, a little bit.”
“Heroin use is all around us and as we’ve seen the users make up every demographic in our society,” he said. “From teenage suburban school kids to people with good jobs.”
“We’ve been investigating drug cases enough to know you can’t live by the stereotypes….it really is everywhere.”
As opioid use continues to climb in Virginia, Ackley said that more resources are going towards addiction treatment and called that “an important component.”
“That’s going to make the job of stemming distribution a lot easier,” he said. “Across the board, we are attacking the problem in a much more focused way.”
Bailey’s plea deal would, if approved, allow him to serve 8-10 years total time versus facing up to life in prison for each charge. The judge must still consider the pre-sentencing report.