“SCO” Gang Leader Sentenced to More than 20 Years in Federal Prison for Drug Trafficking

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PITTSBURGH, PA – A former resident of Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to 262 months’ imprisonment and 10 years’ supervised release on his conviction of narcotics trafficking, Acting United States Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today.

Senior United States District Judge Arthur J. Schwab imposed the sentence on Howard McFadden, age 31, following his February 20, 2020, guilty plea to conspiring to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, 500 grams or more of cocaine and 280 grams or more of crack.

According to information presented to the court, in August of 2018, the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force, led by the FBI, began a long-term investigation in drug trafficking activity occurring in the Braddock section of Pittsburgh. McFadden, the leader of a neighborhood-based street gang, self-titled “SCO”, and over 30 additional individuals, were identified as illegally distributing controlled substances in the Greater Pittsburgh Region.

McFadden, a heroin, powder cocaine, crack and marijuana trafficker, provided large quantities of those controlled substances to other SCO members/associates to distribute into the community. During the proceeding, Judge Schwab noted that McFadden’s drug business was “carefully planned out” and “thoughtfully organized” and that as a result of his actions, over 20 other individuals were involved in the same criminal activity.

McFadden operated his drug trafficking organization by training and mentoring younger SCO members in the drug trafficking business and often employed the use of runners so that he was not the one conducting the hand-to-hand drug transactions. Even so, investigators observed McFadden conducting drug transactions in his Jeep Grand Cherokee, stash house locations as well as apartment complexes, throughout the Braddock and Penn Hills areas. The Court was informed that when McFadden was arrested, investigators searched that vehicle and found a Glock 30, .45 caliber automatic pistol, and 13 rounds of ammunition in a trap compartment on the driver’s side door along with drugs packaged to distribute. McFadden admitted that he illegally possessed that firearm since he is a convicted felon, having served a lengthy sentence in state prison for drug trafficking crimes. Investigators also seized $5,058 from his residence and $18,520 from a safety deposit box that was opened for McFadden by another individual.

McFadden’s drug trafficking operation also utilized a series of stash houses throughout Braddock, PA, which he allegedly repaired as a part of his house-flipping business called H&M Home Solutions. These stash houses, however, were strategically located throughout Braddock in an attempt to avoid law enforcement detection and used as meeting locations for McFadden and his co-conspirators to conduct their drug business. Additionally, McFadden used others – often drug addicts – and members of the conspiracy to work on the homes. Rather than pay those individuals with cash, he would give them drugs.

In January of 2019, investigators obtained authorization to conduct a federal wire investigation, which continued through May of 2019. Investigators intercepted communications over multiple telephones operated by McFadden, intercepting thousands of communications, during which time he discussed his drug trafficking operation. For instance, during one call he explained that his business was “booming” – that is he would buy 2 kilograms of cocaine which he cooked and converted into crack to sell and used the proceeds to buy another kilogram when his supplier was in town. He also described looking to increase his heroin trafficking from a few hundred bricks of heroin to between 600-700 bricks every 3-4 weeks.

The Court noted that the sentence in this case, falling at the low-end of the Sentencing Guideline Range, was sufficient but not greater than necessary to achieve the goals of sentencing and tailored to the defendant’s case. To the argument that no one was hurt by McFadden’s actions, Judge Schwab stated, “I dismiss that. Drugs are killing people” and destroying families. The Court went on to urge McFadden to use the business and leadership skills that he demonstrated as a drug trafficker in a productive and law-abiding way following the service of his sentence.

Assistant United States Attorney Rebecca L. Silinski prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

Acting United States Attorney Kaufman commended the multi-agency team, which was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of McFadden. Partners in this investigation included the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force, Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, Allegheny County Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Narcotics, and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Other assisting agencies included the Monroeville Police Department, Penn Hills Police Department, Wilkinsburg Police Department, and Allegheny County Adult Probation.

This prosecution is a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles high-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten communities throughout the United States. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.