BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham heroin dealer faces 16 to 21 years in prison after pleading guilty to drug crimes Monday, April 1.
Todd Robert Hamilton, 35, ran a heroin and methamphetamine dealing ring out of a condominium at 500 Darby Drive with help from his live-in girlfriend, Denali Wood, 24.
Pounds of drugs were trafficked through their home on a weekly basis, according to records filed in U.S. District Court. He sold narcotics to dealers in Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan counties.
Since the charges came to light in early 2012, more than a dozen people with ties to the drug ring have pleaded guilty to a slew a crimes, meriting sentences of up to eight years.
Hamilton has a felony record dating back to 1993. Court records show he's affiliated with an Aryan prison gang, "8854" or "Hated."
Within three months of his release from custody in early 2011, he was at the helm of a "well organized criminal group that was suspected of being heavily involved in methamphetamine and heroin trafficking, and related crimes such as weapons violations, robbery, burglary, organized shoplifting, forgery, and ... violent crime," according to charging documents filed in federal court.
Police seized his BMW in April 2011. They found more than $10,000 cash and plastic baggies full of drugs.
An investigation ensued. Hamilton's cellphone was wiretapped via a court order. Agents overheard Hamilton, in between Department of Corrections classes, asking Wood's advice on the best way to cut - or dilute - a newly purchased brick of black tar heroin weighing about a pound.
In a span of less than three weeks, investigators observed Hamilton buying more than $100,000 in drugs from a pair of King County residents. (Those men, Elidio Jesus Guillen and Israel Jasso Rodriguez, pleaded guilty to drug crimes. Guillen got six years in prison; Rodriguez must serve three and a half years.)
Later, a raid on the Darby Drive condominium uncovered more drugs and a loaded .45-caliber Cobra pistol. Hamilton pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to distribute a controlled substance and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Hamilton also "corrupted" a Department of Corrections guard, Christian Benjamin Knight, 36, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Knight, a deputy at Monroe Correctional Complex, befriended Hamilton in prison. Knight pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to distribute controlled substances, for passing along sensitive information to Hamilton - tipping him off about DOC warrants, for example. He's now serving an 18-month sentence at a low-security prison in Littleton, Colo.
Wood pleaded guilty last year to aiding and abetting Hamilton's possession of a firearm and conspiring to distribute drugs. Her sentencing hearing is set for July 26.
Andrew Medina, one of many dealers working with Hamilton, pleaded guilty to drug crimes last week in Whatcom County Superior Court for his role in a botched heroin and meth deal in Lynden that ended in the shooting death of Jesse Winchester, 22. Medina accepted a recommended sentence of 10 years behind bars.