Prosecutors secured indictments against about two dozen suspected heroin dealers in the Mondawmin area of Baltimore and worked with police to carry out 11 searches last week and make 19 arrests, the state's attorney's office said.
Among those taken into custody was Aaron Ausby, 22, who prosecutors say they suspect was the supplier to three drug dealing networks in West Baltimore. The three groups operated along a stretch of Reisterstown Road and often collaborated with one another, prosecutors say.
Ausby was arrested at the end of July during a search where prosecutors recovered about 500 heroin capsules and nine grams of raw heroin, according to the state's attorney's office.
In addition to Ausby, 18 other people were arrested and charged with heroin distribution. Another nine have been indicted but remain at large.
A public defender listed in court record for Ausby could not be reached. Richard Woods, an attorney who successfully represented him in an attempted murder trial last year, said he had not heard from him.
In that case, Ausby's attorney had to withdraw and despite his new attorney having just picked up the case, Ausby refused to waive his speedy trial rights. A judge sent him straight before a jury.
Woods said the case involved a shooting on North Avenue, but the only witness was a police officer who had fired on the suspect. After a brief trial, a jury acquitted Ausby on all counts.
Ausby is being held without bail on the new drug charges.
The state's attorney's office had trumpeted its use of long-running investigations to round up drug groups that prosecutors believe drive much of the violence in Baltimore's neighborhoods.
But defense attorneys have questioned the strategy — challenging both its effectiveness and its legal underpinnings in some cases — and in recent weeks have secured favorable plea deals for a number of people caught up in the cases.
Woods said he had another client who was accused of being in a Coppin Heights drug organization and faced more than a decade in prison. He eventually cut a deal for four years, Woods said.
Prosecutors sought to brand his client as "this man who was John Dillinger, defendant No. 1 in this criminal gang that was responsible for all this violence," he said. "It just couldn't have been further from the truth."