Crew caught in ATF sting set to plead guilty to federal charges

Six alleged members of a robbery crew caught in a sting by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are expected to plead guilty to federal charges, according to a letter filed in the case Tuesday.

The government claims that the men were armed drug traffickers who operated out of Waverly. They plotted to rob what they were told was another drug organization's stash house, and were taken into custody in June as they prepared for the raid, according to court filings.

The first member of the crew, John McLaurin, 22, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to possess and distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine. A second man, Isiah (also spelled Isaiah) Benjamin is scheduled to plead Wednesday.

Firearms and robbery charges against McLaurin were dropped as part of a plea deal.

McLaurin and Benjamin were charged along with Tracey Theraldine Betters, Blake Aristotle Betters, Brandon Harris and Aaron Walker.

Harris and Blake Betters are set to enter new pleas in November, but the U.S. attorney's office would not go into detail about how their plea agreements might be constructed, or to which charges they would plead guilty.

"The parties can report that all six defendants have signed plea agreements with the Government," Assistant U.S. Attorney Clinton J. Fuchs wrote in the letter filed in court. "Accordingly, a trial date will not be needed."

A federal agent posing as a disgruntled drug courier told the men about a house that contained $400,000 worth of cocaine and said he would scout out and help plan the robbery, court filings show. Federal officials said an informant introduced the men to the agent.

On the way to the apparent robbery, Tracey Betters allegedly proposed killing the undercover agent and stealing his share of the proceeds, according to the document.

As the men arrived at the Hampden house where they believed they would carry out the robbery, ATF agents and Baltimore police swooped in and arrested them.

The sting is one of a number in Baltimore in which the ATF set up robbery crews and arrested them moments before the suspects thought they were about to carry out a heist. As law enforcement drew near, a suspect was shot after attempting to run down an officer with his vehicle, officials said at the time.

McLaurin's attorney recommended Tuesday that he serve 10 years in prison — the minimum allowable sentence for the charge. The government left open the possibility that it would ask for a longer sentence if McLaurin is found under federal sentencing guidelines to be a "career offender."

Teresa Whalen, the attorney, declined to comment after the hearing.

Attorneys for Tracey Betters, Harris and Walker declined to comment, and attorneys for Blake Betters and Benjamin could not be reached.

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