Local family, associates accused of drug trafficking and money laundering

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Members of a local family and several of their associates appeared in Newport News federal court Monday, accused of drug trafficking and money laundering.

The FBI’s Safe Streets Peninsula Task Force and local police worked the case for two years. They made their arrests in the case last week.

According to court papers, investigators believe the seven people taken into custody last week all played a role in moving heroin, cocaine, and firearms up the East Coast for huge amounts of cash. An eighth person has yet to be arrested.

Court records point to a man named Alex Jermaine Burnett as the drug trafficking and money laundering ring leader. He faces charges of possession with intent to distribute heroin and/or cocaine, conspiracy to posses with intent to distribute, felon in possession of a firearm, and conspiracy to launder money.

Court paperwork shows he’s a member of the Bloods gang and boasted to have inherited the “family business” from his brother Rico Burnett — who is in prison, guilty of attempted capital murder of a police officer.

Burnett’s mother, Shirley Diane Burnett was also arrested, as was her husband Robert. They both face a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Three other associates of Burnett’s — Charles McMillan, Charles Bailey Jr and Mario Barrett — are also all in custody facing similar charges. Court papers say Mario Barrett is a four-time felon, while Bailey, Jr. is a five-time felon.

The FBI used criminal informants, GPS trackers, and surveillance before making the arrests late last week.

Eleonora Paronuzzi was identified as Alex Burnett’s girlfriend and the mother of his infant child. She is also charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and conspiracy to launder money, but is out on bond.

Neither Alex nor his father hired lawyers for a scheduled hearing on Monday. Hearings for the two of them, as well as Shirley Burnett, were postponed.

They are expected to be back in court on Wednesday in Norfolk.