Wilkinsburg drug dealer Omari Patton, once part of the largest drug operation in the history of Western Pennsylvania, is headed back to federal prison for more than five years because of more drug dealing inside the prison system.

U.S. District Judge William Stickman on Thursday sentenced Omari Patton, 44, to 63 months behind bars.

Patton had managed to win a rare acquittal in federal court last year along with his son, Dashawn Burley, in another drug case.

But in February he was convicted of setting up a scheme to distribute drug-saturated paper into federal prisons for other inmates. He recruited his son, who lives in Monroeville, to help. Burley, who had no criminal record before then, pleaded guilty and was sentenced earlier this month to probation.

While an inmate at Fort Dix, N.J., in 2018, Patton had his son mail envelopes to him at the prison and to send other envelopes to another inmate, Shamar Banks, at a federal prison in New York.

The packages were disguised to look like mail from a lawyer. But the lawyer was a fake, and each contained paper saturated with synthetic cannabinoid called K2.

Patton and his son went on trial last year in connection to their roles in a prison drug ring, but the jury found them not guilty. Drug trials in federal court are rare and acquittals even more so. The conviction rate in the U.S. court system is about 95%.

But shortly after that uncommon win, a federal grand jury indicted them again on similar charges involving K2 along with Ross Landfried of Moon and David Curran of Pittsburgh.

Ross Landfried is the brother of convicted prison drug ringleader Noah Landfried of Moon.

Patton, Burley and Curran were among 27 people indicted in 2019 on charges of dealing drugs across Western Pennsylvania and inside the prison system. The members smuggled drug-saturated paper for inmates to smoke or chew to get high.

Inmates paid for the paper with their prison accounts, with the money transferred to the accounts of inmate dealers.

Patton was already well familiar with large-scale drug dealing from his past. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was part of a massive cocaine and heroin ring run by Oliver Beasley and Donald Lyles. John Ashcroft, the attorney general at the time, came to Pittsburgh to announce that case. It was considered the largest-ever drug ring uncovered in this district, although several others dismantled since then have rivaled it in scope.

Prosecutors said Patton had already benefited from a sentence reduction when he decided to start dealing the K2.

“In addition to endangering his son’s future, Mr. Patton’s K2 distribution scheme endangered other inmates and corrections officers and burdened them with the effects of frequent lockdowns, overdoses, assaults and other volatile behavior,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Haller.

Haller said Patton has blamed everyone but himself for his criminal behavior, raising false claims of persecution by numerous prison officers, lawyers, judges, prosecutors and agents.

“He portrays his prosecution in his sentencing filings as a ‘runaway train,’” Haller said. “His prosecution is not a runaway train. If it was, Mr. Patton would be the locomotive.”

Torsten covers the courts for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at jtorsteno@gmail.com.

Torsten Ove

Torsten covers the courts for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at jtorsteno@gmail.com.