Heroin dealer gets 15-plus years in ‘Hardcore Entertainment’ case
The last member of a New Jersey-supplied heroin ring shipping up to 2,000 bricks a week for distribution across the Pittsburgh region is headed to prison for more than 15 years.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, a visiting judge from Washington, D.C., imposed a term of 190 months Friday on Lance Yarbough, with credit for time served for a previous conviction.
Yarbough was part of a drug organization calling itself “Hardcore Entertainment” that bragged on YouTube videos about its prowess in dealing heroin, which it transported on the Pennsylvania Turnpiketo Duquesne.
He was among 19 people indicted three years ago in U.S. District Court following a wiretap investigation by local police and the FBI. He and his cousin, Anthony Pryor, were the only ones to go to trial. They chose a bench trial, and Judge Walton convicted them both.Pryor is serving 140 months.
Judge Walton said that Yarbough was among the Hardcore leaders, although his lawyer, Patrick Livingston, argued that he was a “bit player” and not deserving of the heavy sentences the ringleaders received.
“Lance Yarbough is not a person who moved the needle in the
conspiracy,” Mr. Livingston said.
But the prosecution said he was a significant dealer, and the judge agreed, attributing more than 58 kilos of heroin to him for sentencing purposes. The judge said heroin is destroying neighborhoods here and across the country, and stiff federal sentences show that “there are consequences.”
Yarbough, who is in his 30s, said he wants to change. “I just want to apologize to my family and the communities I hurt,” he said. “Hopefully, I can just put this all behind me.”
His trial was unusual in that four government witnesses refused to testify despite being granted immunity, and the judge sent all to prison for contempt of court. The judge also threatened jail spectators who were watching the trial because some of them were mouthing off in court. His warning stopped that.
Federal agents and government witnesses said Hardcore used drivers as couriers in transporting heroin from New Jersey to Pittsburgh. In the YouTube videos, Hardcore members openly boasted, posing with stacks of cash and flashing gang signs.
The FBI built the investigation on controlled buys, surveillance and cell phone taps, with many of the members becoming witnesses.
The case began with the 2010 investigation of the Manchester OGs on the North Side. Intercepted messages revealed that Corey Thompson was the leader of Hardcore in Duquesne.
Hardcore represented the remnants of a previous gang run by Angie Morgan and her son, Michael Milton, who led a ring in Duquesne in the mid-2000s.
They went to prison, and the new leader became Christopher Thompson and his brother, Corey Thompson. They went to prison, too. Next came Donte Yarbough, Lance’s brother, along with the late Lawrence Short. Donteis also in prison.
Hardcore’s main supplier in New Jersey was Khayri Battle, a former professional basketball player in Europe.
He was among the government witnesses who refused to testify and was sent to prison.