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April 17, 2009

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].'"

Posted by Peter Hermann at 6:29 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Gangs


Who cares? The police don't care. The mayor doesn't care. The only people that care about any of this are the liberals that want to make sure none of these drug dealing murderers have their rights infringed upon.

People know that there is nothing they can do about any of this. Like the slow death of the Baltimore Sun all you can do is sit and watch it go down.

So apparently I don't understand an indictment, as I thought they had to be federal OR state. You refer to an indictment, singular, the Feds talk about two indictments but don't say why two...

Thanks for running this.

Sorry, I should've been a bit clearer; there are two federal indictments for two groups -- the total is 24 and all are charged in connection with the same gang

"Supermax" prisons have received a lot of bad press in recent years, however the BGF story is IMO a good example of why the only way to incarcerate some inmates is to lock them up in solitary confinement all day long. I took a peak at the indictment, and I couldn't help but noticed that some of the crimes in question were taking place at North Branch. NBCI is supposed to be the state's safest and most modern maximum security prison (with the exception of MCAC, a.k.a Supermax) and yet these hoodlums were smuggling in food, conducting criminal activities and even getting laid (!) while they were locked up there. The obvious conclusion is that some prisoners need to be kept caged like the animals they are, and prevented from interacting with other inmates under any circumstances. My preferred solution would of course be to kill them instead of incarcerating them, but that's never going to happen.

Peter, you said this might help us to fight the problem, I’m a Baltimore City Police Officer with over 20 years experience and can tell you there is no way we can deal with the crime and gangs problem in the city, we have no resources, we don’t have enough people in patrol, and 1/3 of them don’t even belong on the force, on any particular day a district will go out on the streets with anywhere from 14 to 18 people now take away details, officers that get a call for service that will take them out for hours such as robberies, child abuses, commercial burglaries, shootings, and then arrest and at any time you have maybe 10 officers if your lucky available to handle calls and be proactive. Lets just say for the sake of argument that are agency was able to make a dent out of the gangs what about all the outlying causes that make someone join a gang, the bad education system, the family structure, the parents with dependencies on drugs or alcohol, the prison system that is geared for punishment and not rehabilitation. I

How about some one lock you up pascal patin like an animal. This has been going way before BGF. I think becaus its mainly an African American organizitation police is trying to crack down. And How dare they link the book to being some conduct book. I guess the African American community is never try to improve their family style. SMH(tisck)

I agree 100% with Pascal Patin


Put the political rhetoric on the backburner for a moment.

This issue is serious and Baltimore City gang issues have remained consistent through Democratic and Republican control on the City, State, and Federal level.

You are probably the same person who thinks all Democrats spend money, yet Clinton's federal budget spending was actual less then Bush's. And that doesn't even count the $1.5 trillion that was spent on the Iraq war.

Put your bias aside and support your country as a whole, not necessarily the people in charge of it

I think people care; the police care, and certainly the Police Commissioner cares -along with the Mayor, who clearly sees that crime, especially violent crime diminishes the city's economic prospects. [It was great to see the Commish on TV last night talking about how some of the family are snitching!] So far this year, other than murders, most crime in Baltimore is "down" (from very high numbers), and that is good fro the average citizen. Clearly, these murdering thugs have to be dealt with, and the corruption in the prison system is just one broken part of a largely broken system. Scores of correctional positions have been eliminated from the coming budget, and will only make it harder for honest, hard-working Correctional Officers like the one who was murdered in Jessup to keep doing their jobs properly.
Oh, Wasted,---since we're supposed to be living in a country ruled by law, yes, even the rights of these clowns are important, since they help keep innocent people to be wrongly convicted (though the exclusionary rule appears to be close to some revision by the Supreme Court).
The police are trying to do their best to control these violent and insidious gangs, but are stretched to do that and provide routine day-to-day police service to normal citizens for their protection. Hence, we all should be grateful for the Federales coming in and helping out with their resources.

I am a correctional officer and the institutions are rife with corruption on any given day guys have cellphones drugs that come from outside i work at central booking a pretrial facility meaning they have not been sentenced we are the first stop in the process and guys have everything here shout we all know officers that bring it in but the code of silence keeps it going the state hires young women barely 21yrs-old many of whom it is their first job and then have go and secure a jail with inmates that come from their neighborhoods it is crazy in their there are hardly any men that work these jobs anymore and more and more women and yes men that should never step in the building get the job because they pas the urinalysis test and have a clean record does nt mean you are a saint until they fix the whole machine from the bottom up they will continue to have problems

Finally,someone with insight

The crime as I see it is these thugs using George Jackson who was a true Revolutionary figure as a front for their criminal enterprise is pathetic.George would never have approved of this crap that these misguided lunatics are using the BGF name. George and his brotha Jonathan got to be turning over in their grave.

I moved to Reservoir Hill from Fairfax County, VA five years ago. I see the problem from a different set of eyes. Through the years I have cleaned the little glass drug vials (in some areas by the handful), needles and beer and liquor bottles (or the glass that remained thereof) from the neighborhood. I have seen the destruction that the "business" the ignorant and foolish dealers are involved in has wrought on their friends, families, neighbors and city. Through my observations, it has become clear that until we (yes, WE!, as a community - as a nation) attack the drug and alcohol addiction problem from the angle of helping people see that it is a sure path toward self destruction, and therefore, eliminate the DESIRE for for these mind altering chemicals, then every problem associated with the drug (and alcohol) culture (poverty, homelessness, violent crime, family break down, corruption, and so on) will continue unabated. Meanwhile, this country has some amazing marketing minds. How about a full frontal marketing campaign designed (with input from stakeholders, including current and former drug users) that will make choosing such a negative lifestyle look stupid (which it is)? The campaign should target the drug dealer's turf, including billboards on every drug street corner). Dig at the root...change a person's mind and change their life. In the meantime, offering more positive alternatives (recreation, mentors, etc.)to the children and teens at risk will go a long way in helping them learn to make better life choices.

The only real answer is drug education, kids need a 12 year course in drug awareness, It should be taught all the way thre school with some shock awareness in later years, if there is no demand the supply will not be there. I know it sounds crazy but what else can be done? The ones that are already hooked are lost we must reach out to the next ones that are innoncent, jmo.

Man I sure hate reading stories about Baltimore,I grew up in this city and it pains my heart to read of the trauma that permeates the city I hold dear to my heart.Maybe I shouldn't come back home to Kansas?

Just a little background on my growing up in Baltimore,I can remember delivering the News-American newspaper as a kid,along with one of my first real jobs as a flyboy with the Sun Paper,boy do I remember all that ink up my nose after a overnight shift!

I actually work at MTC and let me tell you it's a mad house. The inmates do basically whatever they want, whenever they want. It's like a zoo in there, even on "lock down" Tuesdays. I hate to say it, but it seems like when you put black people in charge of their own people they let the color of their skin get in the way of during the job they are paid to do. There are many more dirty corrupted correctional officers in there. It sucks when you try to do the right thing because most of the supervisors are scared "shitless" and will not back you up. Between most of my fellow co-workers and the inmates I feel like I am surrounded at all times and the only one that is going to look out for me is God. The hiring process needs to be more strict, and they should set up cameras in the jail. MTC is no "Lock Up", it's more like a mini vocation spot for criminals, they love it there.

The real answer is to first admit there is a problem.

Simple as that. Aside from a few "rogue" local (or rarely, national) journalists or a blogger here and there, this isn't on anyone's radar.

You can surely bet that Ms. Dixon or Mr. O'Malley won't be broaching the subject. Not with an election looming.

Step One: Admit there is a problem and indentify the scope of said problem. This means from street level cops to the top Brass (who know little, I'm sure.) City residents. Low level hoppers brought in on humbles. Whatever it takes.

Step Two: Well, lets just deal with step one first...

This city has been corrupt since its beginnings back in the late 17th century. When immigrants arrived they had their own crime syndicates. The "merchandise" may have been different, but the rackets remain the same. Nothing new, different time, different players...same game.


Baltimore City is bad,but lets not leave out those child molesters in Baltimore County,or how caucasion priest are wracking havoc on children.If a crime is drugs and gangs,African-American,but bothering children are a caucasion crime.Which is worst?

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.

Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.

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