Garnett Gilbert Smith lived well: he owned a fleet of luxury cars, stayed at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills and dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars at Gucci, Cartier and Louis Vuitton.
He also worked hard, federal authorities say, shipping a metric ton of cocaine from California to Baltimore between 2010 and 2011, clearing $10,000 profit on each kilogram. In all, prosecutors wrote in court documents, he raked in $10 million.
Smith pleaded guilty to a cocaine charge in October, but authorities also believe he trafficked heroin.
“Garnett Smith, simply put, is one of the largest cocaine and heroin dealers to be prosecuted in Baltimore in recent history,” prosecutors wrote to a judge ahead of Smith’s sentencing.
That judge on Thursday sent Smith, 44, to prison for 25 years. He also handed $6.7 million of Smith’s assets over to the federal government, which now finds itself the proud owner of a condo in a downtown Baltimore tower, $1.6 million in jewelry, and cars including a Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and a Maybach.
“Smith will now spend the prime of his life in prison and will not be eligible for parole until he is a senior citizen,” said Gary Tuggle, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Baltimore office.
The case illustrates the heights to which drug traffickers can climb, but also how completely the DEA and other federal authorities can secure their downfall.
It’s not that Smith just rolled over and let prosecutors strip him of his assets. He used aliases to try and hide his investments, authorities say, and from jail worked to get some of his assets liquidated or squirreled away.
“Smith carefully laundered his drug money, utilized friends and relatives as title-holders on cars, established multiple aliases to conduct financial transactions, and created businesses which functioned to disguise the source of his wealth,” prosecutors wrote to the judge.
Some of the money is gone, according to authorities: millions of dollars blown on clothes, vacations, lavish parties and $5,000-a-month apartments. He also maintained a sizable entourage.
Smith made that money selling cocaine that he had shipped from California 60 to 80 kilograms at a time, stuffed in hidden compartments in vehicles loaded onto car carriers. Smith would fly out to Los Angeles, set up the shipment, and fly back to Baltimore to meet it at the other end, prosecutors say.
The people in Smith’s organization used new cell phones on each trip, and employed GPS jamming to avoid detection, according to prosecutors. But in October 2011 state troopers in Arkansas stopped one of the shipments heading back to California, seizing over $2.3 million in drug proceeds.
After that, Smith laid low for a while, according to prosecutors, but soon headed back to California and rented out a luxury apartment in Studio City. He found a new supplier, prosecutors say, and resumed his shipments of cocaine and began trafficking heroin.
But a load of heroin secreted in a hidden compartment installed in an SUV was intercepted in Texas, court documents say. Authorities delivered it to Smith through one of his middlemen, and it was their turn to show off some clever technology.
When Smith opened the hidden compartment, it sent an electronic signal to waiting agents who swept in and arrested him.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun