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Man convicted for role in drug ring

Roper arrested in Operation Capital Crackdown aimed at trade of illegal substances, guns in area

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

HARRISONBURG -- A jury this week convicted a man for his role in the illegal trade in guns and drugs in the area.

A two-day trial in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg ended Wednesday with jurors finding Delante A. Roper, 35, guilty of conspiring to distribute 5 grams or more of a mixture containing cocaine base; distributing or aiding and abetting in the July 18, 2008, distribution of a mixture containing cocaine base, committing the same offense on Aug. 22, 2008; and for possession of cocaine base on Sept. 3, 2008, with intent to distribute the drug, according to online court records.

The jury, however, did not find Roper guilty of conspiring to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture containing cocaine base, the verdict form showed.

Harrisonburg attorney Russell Darren Bostic represented Roper. U.S. District Judge Glen E. Conrad presided over the trial. Jeb Terrien and Ryan Souders prosecuted the case for the U.S. attorney's office in Roanoke.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted Operation Capital Crackdown aimed at bringing down a drug distribution ring that also included the illegal selling of guns. Local law enforcement agencies assisted the ATF in the undercover operation that focused on the area of Dowell J Apartments in Frederick County.

Roper, also known as "Puff" or "Kevin," now faces 30 years to life in prison. That time likely would be in addition to the nearly 27 years he received in federal court in West Virginia for committing earlier drug crimes, Mike Schneider, resident agent-in-charge with the ATF in Martinsburg, W.Va., said Friday.

Most of Roper's defendants have entered guilty pleas and face sentencing hearings in October, according to online court records.

Schneider acknowledged the quick turnaround for the case -- less than a year from the arrests of nearly all the suspects in December to Roper's trial.

"ATF was pretty aggressive in utilizing undercovers to get into that [apartment] complex and buying guns -- bought nine guns off of individuals in there, and then all the cocaine was bought through these undercover agents and that pretty much was the basis for the case," Schneider said of the seven- to eight-month investigation.

Agents were prepared when it appeared the operation could escalate beyond drugs and gun sales.

"Right there towards the tail-end [of the operation] several of the members, about four of them, wanted to commit a robbery and conspired with the undercover agents to do a robbery, so we created a fictitious business-type victim," Schneider recalled. "It never went that far. We pulled the plug on it and made the arrests before it happened."

The danger inherent in the operation was much like any other, the agent said.

"Any time you're dealing with something like that, there's the potential, but ATF's pretty aggressive in rubbing elbows with these guys, so we make sure we can turn over all the stones and see what's going on in certain areas," Schneider said.

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