Major Charleston heroin dealer gets 19 years

Gary Lamontt Smith, 40, was sentenced in federal court to 19 years in prison for his role as a major player in a heroin drug ring operation in Charleston. (Provided)

A major player in supplying Charleston with heroin was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison Thursday, making him one of the signature catches in one of the city’s worst drug networks.

Gary Lamontt Smith, 40, was one of 27 defendants nabbed by authorities who targeted the drug and gang scene around Charleston’s Bridgeview Village, a crime-plagued apartment complex near the city’s northern edge at Romney Street and the Cooper River.

The sentence came as part of a plea deal struck earlier, shortly into a trial in which Smith potentially faced decades behind bars.

Before his 2011 indictment for narcotics distribution, Smith had been able to avoid criminal charges in what authorities contend was a long pattern of moving drugs. He didn’t carry a gun and changed cellphones often.

Prosecutors say he was responsible for moving as much as 10 kilos of heroin into the city, supplied by Dominican Republic-oriented gangs from New York.

Sometimes the drugs came through the mail or by FedEx in 250 to 300 bundles. Each bundle contained 10 bags weighing 0.03 grams each. The bags sold for about $20 each.

At the sentencing, Smith remained shackled and handcuffed while in the courtroom. U.S. District Judge Patrick Michael Duffy told Smith that the 19-year plea deal was about the best he was going to get, given an assortment of government evidence that included wiretaps and more than 600 conversations recorded by authorities.

Smith gave a quickly read statement to the court in which he said he had found a new focus on religion. He also spoke of losing his mother when he was 6 years old in a murder that was never solved.

Duffy responded that he could understand Smith’s circumstance and difficult upbringing but that it did not excuse his path as a drug pusher.

“You are the author of your own dilemma,” Duffy said.

Smith’s heroin trade was part of a crime ring that included Jamar Gathers, a notorious dealer who controlled the Bridgeview drug operation and died during a gun ambush at the apartment complex in August 2010. Prosecutors say Smith’s own drug history began with him serving as a “lookout” in the late 1980s or early ’90s. He allegedly began selling heroin in 2001, working his way up to distributor.

Smith was the last of the case’s 27 defendants to plead guilty in a probe that exposed a multi-state pipeline into Charleston of cash, heroin and cocaine. Three others are still awaiting sentencing, after the others previously received lengthy prison sentences.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.

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