BALTIMORE (AP) — A Baltimore drug kingpin has pleaded guilty to laundering heroin proceeds and tax fraud.

Steven Blackwell of Elkton pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to distribute heroin, launder money and defraud the U.S. government on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. His trial was scheduled to begin next week.

If the court accepts the plea agreement, Blackwell will receive a 20-year prison term at sentencing in January.

Prosecutors say Blackwell, 27, had led a drug operation in Maryland, New York and the Dominican Republic since 2003. Blackwell and his conspirators laundered drug money by buying casinos chips, winning lottery tickets, luxury items and real estate.

Police say Blackwell set off a year of violence in Baltimore that culminated in a 2009 barbecue shootout that injured a dozen people.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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