Records: Woman ran drug ring from Virginia Beach home

VIRGINIA BEACH — A local woman convicted of dog fighting has been admitted trafficking drugs from her beach-front home.

Michelle Renee Best, 43, pleaded guilty Tuesday to leading a Virginia Beach heroin and fentanyl ring, which was responsible for at least one fatal overdose — conspiracy and distribution of fentanyl resulting in serious bodily injury.

Court records say Best, also known as Michelle Smith, dealt cocaine, heroin and the synthetic-opioid fentanyl from her home in the Croatan neighborhood from 2016 until her March arrest.

“Best was dealing death from the comforts of her beach-front neighborhood,” said U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger. “Heroin and fentanyl do not discriminate across economic boundaries, and nor do we. We will remain vigilant in our pursuit of drug dealers who pump poison into our communities, no matter who they are or where they are.”

In December 2017, co-conspirator Christopher Bardall distributed fentanyl to a person who used it and subsequently went into a 17-hour coma and died. Virginia Beach Police arrested Bardall.

Local police and DEA investigators later learned Bardall received his supply of fentanyl from co-conspirator Darin Milligan, who in turn got his fentanyl from his regional supplier, Michelle Best. Best knew the narcotics she was distributing were strong and had resulted in multiple overdoses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

When she learned of the overdose death, she told Milligan to keep the information to himself and that it would be “business as usual.”

According to court documents, police raided her home in March and found drugs, a ledger detailing past purchases and about $42,000 in cash. Best was charged in 2005 but never convicted in connection with the death of her husband, 27-year-old Alexander M. Smith. He disappeared in 2000.

Best is set to be sentenced in March. She faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Bardall pleaded guilty for his role in the conspiracy and will be sentenced in March. Milligan also pleaded guilty for his role in the conspiracy and will be sentenced in January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.