29 Alleged Penn North Drug Dealers Facing Federal Indictments
Long-term Investigation Resulted in Seizure of $935,000 in Cash, Enough Fentanyl to Kill 200,000 People, and Numerous Firearms; Armed Penn North Drug Traffickers Sold Fentanyl Using Brand Names Such As Bullseye, Dirty Sprite, Lamar Jackson and Master P
Baltimore, MD (STL.News) A 10-month investigation by the Baltimore OCDETF Strike Force into violence and drug dealing in the area of Pennsylvania and North Avenues in West Baltimore has led to six federal indictments charging a total of 29 defendants for conspiracy, drug distribution, and firearms charges. The defendants are allegedly members of six different drug crews, each using a different name for their drugs, operating in a several block area in Penn North. The indictments remained sealed until today, as the majority of the defendants have now been arrested and had their initial appearances. Twenty-three defendants have been arrested. Five defendants are fugitives and a sixth defendant absconded from pretrial release.
The indictments were announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office; Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department; Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Secretary Robert Green of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner stated, “All too often, guns and drugs go hand in hand—and both tragically are killing a lot of people in Baltimore. The Strike Force will continue to target areas where violence is fueled by armed drug dealers . We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to get both the guns and the drug dealers off of our streets and to reducing violent crime in our neighborhoods. The indictments we are announcing today reflect our commitment toward achieving that goal.”
“The Baltimore Police Department is committed to working alongside our law enforcement partners to target those involved in the illegal drug trade and those illegally carrying firearms in our city,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison. “These indictments represent the great collaborative work that our agencies are doing to combat drug trafficking in some of our most challenged neighborhoods. We know that drug trafficking fuels violence in our communities and we must remain vigilant in combating these criminals who continue to contribute to overdose deaths in our city.”
“This case is another example of the Baltimore County Police Department’s commitment to work in partnership with our federal counterparts to aggressively dismantle those criminal enterprises that threaten the safety of our communities,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt.
Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized approximately $935,000 in cash, $70,000 worth of luxury jewelry, including Rolex watches, four kilograms of fentanyl—enough to kill 200,000 people, as well as quantities of cocaine and heroin, and nine firearms.
The first indictment (20-0268), returned on August 25, 2020, charges Wesley Clash, age 38; Dashelle Claridy, age 24; Vincent Davis, age 41; Myesha Jones, age 25; and Kevin Riggins, age 26, all of Baltimore, with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, and crack and powder cocaine using the name “Dirty Sprite,” beginning no later than July 2019. Jones, Clash, and Claridy are also charged with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Kevin Riggins is a fugitive and Vincent Davis absconded from his pretrial release.
The second indictment (20-0269) was also returned on August 25, 2020. The 12-count indictment charges Jerold Gilliam, age 40; Akeem Ross, age 29; Charles Bond, age 25; Trevor Connors, age 50; Gilbert Conway, age 44; James Meekins, age 35; Isaiah Timms, age 28; Marquese Ward, age 30; and Welton Whittington, Jr., age 30, all of Baltimore for their participation in a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and crack cocaine, using the name “Bullseye,” beginning in August 2019. Ross, Bond, Meekins Connors, and Gilliam are also charged with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Ward, Ross, Connors are charged with being felons in possession of a firearm and Ross and Connors are also charged with possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Akeem Ross is a fugitive.
Five defendants are charged in a nine-count indictment (20-0385) that was returned by a federal grand jury on November 10, 2020. Ronald Green, age 47; Kinnard Riggs, age 46; Malik Gilmore, age 25; Edward Baker, age 36; Clifton Bryant, age 51; and Lawrence Nichols, age 50, all of Baltimore, allegedly participated in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl using the name “Special,” from August 2019 through at least December 2019. Green, Riggs, Bryant, and Nichols are also charged with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Green and Riggs are each charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and with possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense. Lawrence Nichols is believed to be deceased.
A federal grand jury indicted (20-0386) Jerome Willingham, age 33, of Baltimore on November 10, 2020, charging him with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl that Willingham branded as “Lamar Jackson,” beginning in at least January 2020. Willingham is also charged with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. Willingham is a fugitive.
Torico Reaves, age 48; Michael Bowles, age 57, Shawn Jackson, age 48; Lafonte Johnson, age 40; Robert Ross, Jr., age 54; Albert Shields, age 51; and Kevin Toppin, age 33, all of Baltimore, are charged in a five-count indictment (20-0443) with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl between at least October 2019 and April 2020, using the brand name “Master P” for their fentanyl. The indictment was returned on December 9, 2020. Reaves, Toppin, Bowles, Jackson, and Ross are also charged with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Jackson is a fugitive.
Finally, Jacquez Maith-Bost, age 29, of Baltimore was indicted (20-0440) on December 9, 2020, charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin and crack cocaine on March 11, 2020, using the name “D. Rose”. Maith-Bost is also charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.
The defendants face a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison for the conspiracy; a maximum of 20 year in federal prison for each count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances; a maximum of life in federal prison for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; and a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. All of the defendants have had an initial appearance. Gilliam, Bond, Connors, Conway, Ward, Riggs, and Shields were ordered to be detained and the remaining defendants were released with conditions, under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
This prosecution was brought as a part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Co-located Strike Forces Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations against a continuum of priority targets and their affiliate illicit financial networks. These prosecutor-led co-located Strike Forces capitalize on the synergy created through the long-term relationships that can be forged by agents, analysts, and prosecutors who remain together over time, and they epitomize the model that has proven most effective in combating organized crime. The specific mission of the Baltimore OCDETF Strike Force is to reduce violent, drug-related, and gang crime in the Baltimore area and surrounding region.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the DEA, the Baltimore Police Department, the Baltimore County Police Department, and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for their work in the investigation and thanked the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City for its assistance. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles D. Austin and James T. Wallner, who are prosecuting the case.