Cornell Jones Biography

Drug Dealer
Cornell Jones is was a drug kingpin in the Washington, D.C. area during the 1970s and 1980s.


Cornell Jones grew up in housing projects on Hanover Place in Washington, D.C. At the age of 16, Jones robbed the Army-Navy Bank and was eventually arrested and sent to juvenile detention. Upon his release in 1975, Jones developed D.C.'s drug trade and created the first "open air" drug market in the country. He went to prison from 1986 to 1995 and is currently rehabilitating ex-cons.

Early Life

Drug kingpin. Jones' family moved to Hanover Place in Washington, D.C., during the 1940s. Living in the low-income Hanover Place housing projects, Jones' father tried to support the family as a brick-layer. Money was short in the Jones household, however, and Cornell frequently got by through hustling on the streets. His illegal behavior often got him into trouble at school, and at the local boy's club.

Early Crimes

At the age of 16, Jones staged his first large-scale crime-robbing the Army - Navy Bank only blocks away from the Pentagon. During the police chase afterward, Jones and his associates parked their stolen car in front of the Justice Center in D.C. Police did not catch the criminals, which bolstered the boys' confidence. Jones and his friends began planning more heists while still attending high school, bringing in enough cash to get themselves cars, clothes, and jewelry. At age 17, Jones' suspicious wealth made him a target for a police investigation, and he was arrested and sent to juvenile detention for his crimes.

Drug Trade

Upon his release from prison in 1975, Jones returned to Hanover with close connections to the drug trade and a plan. Using suppliers from Thailand and Amsterdam, Jones was able to get a cheap supply of drugs funneled into his Hanover neighborhood. The money he made trafficking cocaine, heroin, PCP, and crack was used to not only give Jones a lavish lifestyle, but to help the members of his community. Cornell frequently made sure children in the community had shoes, or that neighbors could pay their rent. He also used his funds to help children in the boy's club, specifically aspiring athletes. With Jones' financial support, many basketball players were sent to private Catholic schools, given new basketballs and uniforms, and even provided with college assistance.

Jones' business wasn't entirely compassionate; his money was made from draining the very community he was also helping. Not only was he cultivating his clients' tastes for certain drugs, but he also began mixing new ones. In the mid-1970s, Jones and his crew discovered a method for mixing PCP and marijuana that earned the nickname "butt naked" for its tendency to "inspire" its users to strip out of their clothes. Also called "love boat," the drug frequently caused hallucinations and had violent results-users engaged in self-harm or harm to others while under its influence. The wildly popular drug had to be created by the oil drum to satisfy the new influx of clients.

Kingpin Status

In 1979 Jones was arrested for heroin possession, for which he spent two years in prison. By the time he was released from prison, Jones had made enough connections to become a supplier for other dealers. He set up outlets all over the world, and then used them to regularly ship large quantities of product to Hanover Place. Jones' wide variety of drug offerings-known for their high quality and generous amounts-helped to create the first "open air" drug market in the country. Lines of users and dealers looking for fair prices often wrapped around the block, and Jones frequently spent $200,000 a week employing soldiers and lieutenants to keep his 24-hour a day franchise going.

By the mid-1980s, Jones started using his ill-gotten gains to purchase legitimate businesses, including real estate and nightclubs. He had also assembled a management company that handled his purchases. The excess of wealth gained the attention of authorities, who set up a sting operation. On October 29, 1985, Jones met with a dealer, who was actually a wired informant. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess. Search warrants revealed the rest of his crimes, including millions of dollars in illegal assets.


Jones negotiated a deal of nine to 27 years in prison in 1986, and was sent to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. He was released in 1995, and began work at a family business in his Hanover neighborhood. He currently volunteers work at the nonprofit Miracle Hands, which helps rehabilitate ex-cons.

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