Champagne tastes and drug lord dreams
So, finally, the recession hits Baltimore's drug lords.
According to the feds, one complained he couldn't get lobster and had to settle for salmon with shrimp and crab imperial. And he's is prison!
It's one of the best parts of the sweeping indictment announced Thursday by federal and local law enforcement, and one that captures both the bravado and arrogance of local drug gangs -- in this case the Black Guerrilla Family -- but also our frustrations in that it confirms our worst fears and suspicions.
But it's not the most important part of this indictment, spelled out in more than 100 chilling pages in court papers. It brings together a mind-boggling number of disparate cases, showing links to shootings big and small, and giving us a road map of drug violence that appears out of control and random but is really part of a vast and complex conspiracy that involves corruption of correctional officers who are accused of helping to smuggle in expensive food, drugs and cell phones.
The violence in recent months at the Belvedere in Mount Vernon -- authorities say the drug gang used the condo complex and its array of bars and hidden rooms to meet and plot their next moves. Any wonder why there are loud parties, fights and gunfire outside? Feds say that one meeting never occurred because the suspected dealers overheard cops talking about it on a police scanner.
Police break up a gathering of more than 100 suspected gang members at Druid Hill Park this week -- members of BGF.
The shooting death of former City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. -- this week, a BGF member was arrested and charged with threatening to kill a witness in the case. In state charges filed a week ago, a security officer hired to patrol the Northwood community, where Harris was shot, reported that he was threatened by a man at a shopping center on Cold Spring Lane for helping to identify suspects in the killing of Harris. "Our guns are bigger than your guns," the man said, according to state prosecutors. "You don't want to mess with BGF."
The padlocking of Club 410 in Northeast Baltimore -- After putting up a pretty good defense of her club, saying she promoted holiday drives, but unable to prevent police from closing it down because they say it's associated with violence -- the owner was named in the BGF indictment and charged with conspiracy for allegedly using her club as a hangout for the gang.
Two separate murder cases in Baltimore Circuit Court involve BGF members.
The recent stabbing death of an inmate in a city prison -- now linked to a BGF dispute.
The violence that sometimes consumes this city is not immune from understanding, and can be prevented. But as this indictment shows, it takes more than putting more cops on the street. The drug trade and the corruption that helps fuel it -- that corrections officers allegedly catered to gang members in prison by smuggling in cigars and vodka only shows how deep the problem is -- is as sweeping as it is complex.
I found one of the most interesting aspects of this case to be Club 410. I'm not sure whether the cops that held the hearing and padlocked the club knew about the extent of the federal investigation, though one cop at the hearing did reference BGF in his testimony. Could it be the cops targeted this club to shake things up a bit in advance of more serious charges to come? Or was it two law enforcement organizations going after the same people?
Either way, if BGF is indeed trying to take over Baltimore's lucrative drug markets, this indictment could not only help end that endeavor but also answer a lot of questions about why things happen in this city. People don't shoot each other for no reason outside the Belvedere anymore than in any other neighborhood. Understanding why all this happens is just as important investigating what happens because it may help us to really stop it.
What follows are some highlights from the search warrant application filed by Detective William Nickoles, who works for the Baltimore Police Department and is assigned to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration task force. It reads more like a novel than a court document, complete with narratives of killings, drug deals, violence and sex:
"As more fully described below, BGF is attempting to take over the illegal drug trade at multiple locations in Baltimore, Maryland and is committing drug-related acts of violence and extortion as part of its efforts to expand its influence from inside the prison walls to the streets of Baltimore."
The indictment names dozens of people, including many imprisoned for murder and are accused of smuggling in contraband. They have formed a group in prison whose leaders are called the "Supreme Bush" and hold various ranks.
"BGF members are periodically tested on their knowledge of the gang's history and rules. Members who fail to demonstrate adequate familiarity with the gang's history and rules are 'sanction' or beaten." The group published "The Black Book -- Empowering Black Families and Communities" that the feds say was distributed to make the organization "appear legitimate and not involved in criminal activity."
In intercepted cell phone calls, prisoners talk about holding three-way conference calls to discuss business -- "Listen, man, we on the verge of big things, man." The answer: "Alright man, uh you know what I mean? You already know man, I'm a solid soldier. Whatever you need, whatever you need me to do man, I'm there, man."
The other man responded: "Ok, this positive movement that we are embarking on now, right, is moving at a rapid pace, right. It's happening on almost every location [all prisons and other location where BGF is active]. Revolution is the only solution brother."
A female officer in the prison system is accused of trading sex for money and even sent provocative photos of herself to inmates on smuggled cell phones. In one recorded phone conversation, the officer tells an inmate she was happy to be fired: "I'm stress free now. That damn job was stressing me out and I, I had went there last week. I took off my bag and they was stressing me out. The big boss called me back, but they didn't find anything. I left. That job was cool while it lasted. But that s--- like having a McDonald's job, I got to break the law to get money."
"During a series of calls intercepted in April 2009, Eric Brown discussed with Deitra Davenport and others the fact that he and other BGF members were smuggling champagne and Grey Goose vodka into MTC. Brown attempted to get lobster into the facility but ultimately was able to smuggle in only salmon with shrimp and crab imperial. Brown asked Davenport to smuggle a good cigar into the facility so he could enjoy a good cigar while he was drinking."
"Several guards with the Department of Corrections are assisting BGF members with an extortion scheme under which BGF offers protection while in jail to newly arrested person who are not BGF members. In exchange for this protection, an arrested person is required to pay money to BGF. Specifically, BGF supplies the person to be protected with a credit card number of a prepaid credit card (sometimes referred to as a 'Green Dot' card) and the person to be protected is required to have family members or friends place mone onto the card when periodically directed to by BGF. The credit card is often held by one of the corrections officers who are assisting BGF or by BGF members on the street. If the newly arrested inmate does not agree to pay for the protection, then he or she is targeted for violent crimes while in prison."
"On March 24, 2009, at approximately 4:40 pm, Glasscho placed an outgoing call... During the conversation, Glasscho told Scipio, 'Yea you gotta come down to the Belvedere Hotel homey." Scipio responded, 'Alright, I'm gonna call you when I'm close.' At approximately 5:11 p.m., Scipio called Glasscho and said, 'I'm outside.' Based on my training and experience and other information developed during his investigation, I believe that Glasscho and Scipio were meeting in person to discuss a drug transaction. However, at approximately 5:11 p.m., Glasscho received an incoming call from Scipio. when Glasscho answered the call Scipio said, 'You tell somebody to meet me?' Glasscho answered, 'Nah! Why you say that?' Scipio went on to explain, "Some dude just hit my phone talking about did I meet somebody at the Belvedere. Boy let me holler at you on second. Didn't you just meet somebody at the Belvedere? You feel me?'"
"Glasscho responded, 'Ahh!' Scipio then spoke with two individuals in the background. Scipio then returned to the conversation and said, 'KG, get the [expletive] away from there. They, they just told me the peoples [a reference to law enforcement] is on you. You hear what I said!?' Glasscho responded, 'Alright.' Scipio continued, 'My man just hit me, it's on the scanner [police scanner].'"