Public Safety

Former leader of large heroin ring sentenced to over 30 years in prison

Antonio Outlaw
Antonio Outlaw

The former leader of a large heroin distribution operation in Cedar Rapids was sentenced Wednesday to over 30 years in federal prison.

Antonio Outlaw, 40, of Chicago and Cedar Rapids, was convicted by a jury last December for conspiring to distribute a kilogram or more of heroin and aiding and abetting the distribution of heroin. Before that trial, in September 2017, Outlaw also pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing heroin in 2013.

During sentencing, U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade said Outlaw led a “parade of human misery,” pointing to evidence from about two dozen of his customers, who knew Outlaw as “We the Best.” His crimes hurt the community, the judge said, because his customers often stole items from retail stores to support their drug habits, and some of those thefts were requested by Outlaw and other members of his crew.  

“Even the smallest dose of heroin can kill, and Outlaw pushed kilograms of this poison into our community for years,” U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr. said in a statement after the sentencing. “Today, through the tireless efforts of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, Outlaw was brought to justice in a court of law.”

Evidence during a five-day trial last December showed Outlaw ran the heroin ring since at least 2013, and continued until January 2017.

Witnesses testified that Outlaw’s drug operation was commonly known to customers as “We the Best” because of a signature line included on text messages sent out by members of the ring.

Evidence showed that Outlaw’s group distributed over 2 kilograms of heroin.

Other evidence during sentencing showed that in the fall of 2017, while in federal custody pending his trial, Outlaw participated in an attempted jail break from the Bremer County Jail in Waverly. Outlaw and another federal inmate, Jose Valencia, planned to break out by having another person tamper with the exterior window to Outlaw’s cell. 

Jail staff noticed significant damage to the window before the inmates could try to escape.

Reade sentenced Outlaw to 365 months in prison and ordered him to serve 10 years of supervised release following his prison term.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dan Chatham and Emily Nydle, and investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force, which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Linn County Sheriff’s Office; the Cedar Rapids, Marion and Iowa City police departments; and the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement.

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