Rayful Edmond III was a notorious '80s drug dealer from Washington, D.C. Pulled into the drug trade at just 9 years old, he dropped out of college to begin working for a local cocaine dealer. By the time he was 22 he had made millions shipping drugs in from Los Angeles, California, during which time the city's murder rate and cocaine-related hospital emergencies doubled. He was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to two life terms for a number of federal violations. Following his conviction, Edmond struck a deal with law enforcement becoming a government informant.
Rayful Edmond III was born on November 26, 1964, in Washington, D.C. His parents, Rayful Edmond Jr. and Constance "Bootsie" Perry, were both government workers who moonlighted as drug dealers. Perry, who heavily doted on her seven children, began teaching Rayful and his siblings how to deal narcotics and prescription drugs while they were all very young. Rayful was pulled into the drug trade at the age of 9.
School proved to be a respite for Edmond, and the young man flourished in the classroom. A good student and talented basketball player who was popular with his classmates, Rayful was on the fast track to college. His life at home, however, drew him further and further away from a promising future. By the age of 18, he had already dropped out of college to make easy money cutting cocaine for a local dealer.
Creation of a Drug Empire
Around this time, Edmond met Cornell Jones, a D.C. drug kingpin. Through Jones and associate Tony Lewis, Edmond made key drug connections. Using his knowledge of his neighborhood, Edmond created what he called "The Strip," a series of back-alley escape routes for dealers to escape police. He tapped local kids to act as lookouts, and hired his family members to help him set up and run his drug ring. With the advent of crack, a smokable form of cocaine, Edmond found himself with an instant market of desperate addicts. He began looking for ways to supply his ever-expanding customer base. He found it in April of 1987.
While on a trip to Las Vegas, Edmond met with Melvin Butler, a Los Angeles dealer who could supply him with Colombian cocaine at low prices. What started out as one shipment turned into hundreds of kilos each month. Edmond was making millions by the time he was 22, and he flaunted his illicit wealth around town. He spent lavishly on cars, clothing and extravagant partying.
By 1989, Edmond had a sizable share of the drug trade in D.C.—nearly 60 percent of the city's market. He was also involved in a flurry of violence, with approximately 30 homicides tied to Edmond and his crew. Between 1985 and 1989, the city's murder rate had doubled, much of which D.C. law enforcement tied to the drug trade, and cocaine-related hospital emergencies rose an estimated 400 percent. Police began waging a war on drugs, and Edmond was their primary target. After a series of wiretaps, investigations into his finances, testimony from informants, and confessions from members of his drug ring, police had enough evidence to put Edmond behind bars.
Arrest and Punishment
On April 15, 1989, Edmond was arrested along with 28 associates, 11 of whom were members of Edmond's family. Put on trial under unprecedented security, Edmond's case became a daily spectacle. Jailed at Quantico Marine Base, Edmond was flown to court each day by helicopter. The jurors were kept anonymous, held in separate homes, and placed behind bulletproof glass.
More than 100 witnesses testified in the trial, which led to Edmond's conviction on multiple counts, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise; conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than 50 grams of cocaine base; and unlawfully employing a person under 18 years of age. On September 17, 1990, Edmond was sentenced to two life terms without parole. Edmond's mother was sentenced to 24 years for participating in her son's ring, and Tony Lewis also received life without parole.
Edmond continued to deal within prison, and began laundering cash through a girlfriend. The police started wiretapping his calls to gain evidence. But Rayful had created a special Philadelphia pig latin code to speak with dealers, which required a translator to decode. Confronted by police with this new evidence, Edmond struck a deal with law enforcement. He won his mother's early release by becoming a government informant. Since then, he has been placed in the prison's witness protection program.
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