A Culpeper man was sentenced to 60 years in prison for dealing crack cocaine and heroin out of a local car stereo shop, a crime brought to light during a multi-agency drug sting operation this past spring.
Antonio “Tony” Sedro Tansimore, 47, received his punishment Wednesday in Culpeper County Circuit Court following a bench trial of several hours, overseen by Judge Susan Whitlock. He had pleaded not guilty.
The mandatory minimum sentence on the four felony distribution charges was 40 years, according to prosecutor Travis Owens, who tried the case. According to defense attorney Kevin Smith, his client was offered a plea deal, which he turned down, carrying a reported 16-year jail sentence.
Whitlock sentenced Tansimore to 40 years on each count, suspending all but 15 years on each charge while also imposing a $10,000 fine. She strongly addressed the defendant prior to sentencing.
“The decisions you made have caused people used to drugs and caused people to die because of use of drugs,” the judge said, adding her harsh sentence was based on that fact.
The Culpeper County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office called seven witnesses in presenting its case against Tansimore. He was arrested April 11 during the execution of a search warrant at True Sound & Security, located in the industrial park behind Martin’s Grocery on Montanus Drive.
The arrest followed a months-long probe into drug dealing from the business involving the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office Aggressive Criminal Enforcement (ACE) Team, Drug Enforcement Agency, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team and Culpeper Town Police Street Crimes Unit. Seized in the raid was crack cocaine, heroin, pills and cash.
Tansimore was a convicted drug felon and on probation at the time of his arrest. In securing the latest conviction, authorities used a confidential informant to buy drugs from Tansimore on three occasions in March.
The informant, a petite African-American woman in her late 40s, is also a convicted drug felon who agreed to help law enforcement to minimize her own potential jail time. She wore a wire so authorities could record her conversations with Tansimore on the phone and in person.
On the stand Wednesday, the informant described how she called “Tony” on the phone to arrange the drug deal at True Sound at the direction of ACE investigators.
“I had to do a buy from Mr. Tansimore,” she said.
The woman described how she and the defendant “laughed, talked and played” before she went inside the rear bay area of the business and purchased crack on one afternoon and crack and heroin on another occasion. During the third controlled buy, she purchased crack from Tansimore in a van parked outside the shop. She then met back-up with the detectives and handed them the drugs.
“We did the exchange. I gave him the money for the crack,” the informant said.
During testimony, the ACE investigators detailed how they provided her with the cash for the drugs. They described how she and her vehicle were thoroughly searched before and after she got the narcotics. They played recordings of their conversations and showed photos of the drugs.
Owens, a senior assistant commonwealth’s attorney, inquired about her cooperation with police.
“I got myself into some trouble,” the informant said, “and was presented with a proposition. I was trying to help myself out.”
Smith, the defense attorney, was more direct: “It’s safe to say you have a drug problem?” he asked, to which the woman replied, “No.” She said she had been on probation for around eight years and used to buy drugs from Tansimore “years ago.” She admitted she was pulled over with drugs in the car in 2017.
“They was going to someone else,” the informant said, to which Smith retorted, “So you were dealing?”
She responded, “I was delivering—cocaine and a pill.” The woman added, she was “just giving the drugs to someone else” because that person “didn’t have a ride.” The informant said she knew Tansimore for around 20 years: “Basically I bought drugs from him.”
The lead ACE investigator on the case testified that on the first occasion in March the informant purchased three, half-gram crack rocks for $100. Prior to the buy, perimeter security and surveillance was set up around True Sound.
The investigator said a gram of crack cocaine typically sells for $100 in this area, noting, “She got a very good deal.” During the second controlled buy, the woman asked for “hard”—a moniker for crack—and “brown,” referring to heroin. It was during this second operation that the DEA got involved, providing an on-site van with two cameras inside, enabled with remote monitoring and high-capacity zoom lenses.
It was also during the second buy that Tansimore gave the informant extra heroin, telling her, according to the recording, “Go make some money.” ACE team members field tested the crack later verified by the state lab. The heroin was not tested, the investigator said, due to its potential for containing fentanyl.
Investigators said they confirmed it was Tansimore’s voice on the recording by comparing his voice with conversations made in phone calls from the jail.
DEA Special Agent Laura Kennedy testified she searched the informant prior to the drug purchases and found no contraband on her. The agent said she helped with capturing photographs during the final deal in the van on March 27.
“I observed the cooperator get into the van and saw them shake hands inside the van,” Kennedy testified.
Tansimore takes the stand
Smith repeatedly asked the investigators if anyone actually saw his client selling drugs to the informant, and the answer was always no. He asked if Tanismore’s fingerprints were found on the baggies containing the drugs and the answer was no.
“The only evidence they have is the confidential informant,” Smith said, noting she has an incentive to cooperate with police. “She’s working to lessen her charges. Her credibility is an issue.”
The defense attorney made a motion to dismiss the case, which Whitlock swiftly denied, saying the chain of evidence had been adequately established in addition to the audio and photographic evidence.
Smith called one witness in presenting his case—Tansimore. Bald, with a gray and black beard and moustache, the defendant walked to the witness stand wearing orange flip flops and a black-and-white prison jumpsuit with shackles on his hands and feet.
He testified he did not remember the events in March.
“I probably talked to her, but I don’t recall,” Tansimore said. “She came out to the shop all the time.”
He denied selling drugs to the informant.
Prior to declaring the defendant guilty on all counts, Whitlock said she found the confidential informant’s testimony to be credible. She said she found Tanismore’s testimony incredible. Whitlock commended law enforcement for its strong case, calling it “textbook police work.”
Now convicted, Tanismore faces more charges related to other drugs and the more than $2,000 in cash seized during the search warrant.
“We found a large amount of cash on his person—in one big fold,” testified the ACE investigator.
In closing, Owens said Tansimore is not a smalltime drug dealer, mentioning several other people were observed making “short term contact” with him during the sting operation.
“He is doing this to make a profit. What he is selling to individuals is large quantities of heroin and cocaine,” the prosecutor said. “It’s a full scale operation.”
Owens asked for a sentence greater than 40 years, saying it would send a message to the community.
Smith said 40 years was far more than adequate. He said his client intended to appeal the conviction.