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Columbus man pleads guilty to federal drug charges

CHARLESTON — An Ohio man has pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge from a case investigated by anti-narcotics agencies in Washington and Wood counties, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Thursday said.

Robert Lamar Bates-Porter, 33, of Columbus pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said.

“After serving five years in prison for his previous federal conviction, Bates-Porter didn’t even wait for his term of supervised release to end before picking up where he left off as a drug dealer,” Stuart said. “Now he will be returning to federal prison where I hope he sets his sights on a different line of work upon release.”

During the late summer of 2019, the Washington County Major Crimes Task Force was investigating a drug trafficking organization that was bringing fentanyl and heroin from Columbus to be distributed in and around Marietta and Parkersburg, Stuart said.

The task force joined forces with the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force to investigate the organization, he said. Investigators identified Bates-Porter as a key member of the organization, Stuart said.

In September, Bates-Porter ordered a package of drugs to be delivered to a residence on Roselynne Avenue in Parkersburg, Stuart said. The package was delivered on Sept. 12, he said.

Bates-Porter drove from Columbus to Parkersburg and arrived at Roselynne Avenue after midnight on Sept. 13, Stuart said. Shortly thereafter, the Parkersburg task force executed a search warrant at the residence where they found Bates-Porter in the basement preparing to open the drug package, Stuart said.

Officers seized the package, which contained a kilogram of fentanyl, Stuart said. Later on the same day, police in Columbus executed a search warrant at Bates-Porter’s residence where they seized 260 grams of heroin, 94 grams of cocaine, and a small quantity of a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, Stuart said.

At the time of his arrest, Bates-Porter was on federal supervised release for a 2014 conviction in the Southern District of West Virginia for possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, Stuart said. At the plea hearing, he admitted that he took possession of the package and intended to distribute the drugs inside which he claimed to believe was heroin, Stuart said.

In addition to facing 10 years to life in prison for the fentanyl charge, Bates-Porter also faces up to five years for violating the terms of his supervised release when he is sentenced on Sept. 23.

The Washington County Major Crimes Task Force, the Parkersburg Narcotics Task Force, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Columbus Police Department conducted the investigation. Senior United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorney Joshua Hanks handled the prosecution.

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