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Philadelphia drug kingpin gets 9-year sentence

By George Anastasia
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — An admitted drug kingpin who is now cooperating with authorities was sentenced to nine years in prison yesterday after pleading guilty to heading what authorities say was one of the biggest cocaine distribution operations in the city.

Ricardo McKendrick Jr., a Salem County, N.J., resident who has been in jail since his arrest in April 2008, was described as a “dealer’s dealer” by U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter before she imposed a 108-month prison sentence.

The term was substantially below recommended sentencing guidelines, and came in response to a government motion that detailed the extent of McKendrick’s cooperation.

Pratter also had a private, 15-minute sidebar session in the midst of the hearing in which she heard more details about why the prosecution felt a lesser sentence was appropriate.

The motion seeking a sentence reduction was filed under seal and is not available to the public.

Neither the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Tsao, nor McKendrick’s lawyer, Brian McMonagle, would comment about the motion or the sidebar session after yesterday’s hearing.

Pratter called the motion “very compelling,” but provided no details.

Under guideline recommendations, McKendrick, 38, faced a sentence of 188 to 235 months.

The soft-spoken admitted kingpin apologized to family members and friends who had packed the eighth-floor courtroom for the hearing.

He said he was motivated by a desire to “get ahead” and had seen the money he made from drug dealing as a measure of success.

“It was the greatest mistake I ever made,” he said. “I hurt so many people.”

Police and the FBI seized nearly 600 pounds of cocaine, valued at about $28 million, and more than $1 million in cash when McKendrick was arrested in April 2008.

The stash included $982,000 hidden in the trunk of a Mercedes parked in the garage of a home in Woodstown, N.J., where McKendrick lived with his wife, who is a lawyer, and their 4-year-old daughter.

Authorities said McKendrick used his father’s Grays Ferry rowhouse in South Philadelphia to store his drugs.

Ricardo McKendrick Sr., once a member of the notorious Black Mafia, pleaded guilty to a drug-conspiracy charge in December 2008 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Authorities raided his house in the 2600 block of Federal Street after receiving a tip that the younger McKendrick had received a shipment of cocaine.

During that raid authorities found 274 kilograms (about 600 pounds) of cocaine.

“In terms of the sheer amount of cocaine seized in the offense, the scope of the defendant’s crime is unmatched in recent Philadelphia history,” Tsao wrote in a sentencing memo filed prior to yesterday’s hearing.

McKendrick’s decision to cooperate is not a secret.

He testified for the government in the trial of rogue Philadelphia cop Malik Snell last year.

Snell was charged with using his badge and his gun to rob drug dealers.

McKendrick testified about a bogus police stop in which Snell stole $40,000 from the backseat of his car.

But McKendrick’s decision to cooperate could extend well beyond the case of a corrupt police officer.

Described by Tsao as a “major player in the Philadelphia cocaine market,” McKendrick could offer authorities inside details about the Philadelphia drug underworld.

McKendrick, according to law enforcement sources, bought and sold in bulk, and his information could help make cases against both the drug suppliers from whom he was buying and the dealers to whom he was selling.

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