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Third Baltimore police detective to plead guilty in federal racketeering case, attorney says

Baltimore Police Detective Jemell Rayam will plead guilty Tuesday in federal court to robbing people he detained, billing for overtime hours he didn’t work and forging reports to cover his tracks, his attorney, Dennis Boyle, said.

Rayam’s guilty plea would bring to three the number of police detectives who have admitted to the criminal charges filed earlier this year in a federal racketeering case with far-reaching implications. The scandal toppled the Police Department’s elite gun unit and led prosecutors to drop criminal charges against more than 100 people whose cases hinged on the word of the officers.

A fourth officer, Detective Momodu Gondo, called “G Money” in wiretapped phone calls, is scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday to change his plea of not guilty, according to court records. His attorneys did not respond to messages on Monday.

Both detectives live in Owings Mills and remain suspended from the Police Department. They have been held in detention since their arrest and each faces as much as 20 years in prison. A hearing for Rayam, to change his plea was scheduled initially for next month.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment Monday.

Six other officers have been indicted in the racketeering case, including the plainclothes gun unit’s former commanders, Sgts. Thomas Allers and Wayne Jenkins. Both men pleaded not guilty, as have Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor. Their trials are scheduled to begin in January.

Detectives Evodio Hendrix and Maurice Ward both pleaded guilty in July and await sentencing next year. They face seven to nine years in prison under sentencing guidelines, though the judge could choose to impose the maximum 20 years.

The indictments led Police Commissioner Kevin Davis to end plainclothes policing in Baltimore, saying the style encouraged officers to cut corners.

Rayam, 37, and Gondo, 34, both joined the force 12 years ago, and they conspired with others in the unit to carry out a campaign of robbery and extortion stretching back at least two years, federal prosecutors wrote in the indictment.

The two men also are accused of routinely cheating on their overtime. Wiretaps recorded them discussing schemes to inflate their paychecks from $3,000 to $4,000 to $5,000, prosecutors wrote.

Rayam once filed for overtime pay for the hours he spent inside the poker room at the Maryland Live Casino in Anne Arundel County, prosecutors wrote.

“One hour can be eight hours,” Gondo allegedly told him by phone in a July 2016. “Easy money J. Easy money.”

Both men earned a salary of about $71,400 during fiscal year 2016, but also received nearly $30,000 in overtime pay, prosecutors wrote. Mayor Catherine Pugh began an audit of police overtime costs after the allegations emerged of widespread overtime fraud.

Rayam is accused of hatching a plan to rob a Morrell Park woman of $20,000 she had borrowed in June 2014 to pay off her taxes. Prosecutors said Rayam drove two men — his cousin and an acquaintance — to the home of Donna Curry, provided the robbers with his police vest, then acted as their lookout and getaway.

Curry said two men in police vests searched her home then departed hurriedly, leaving her purse empty in the kitchen sink.

About a week earlier, someone tried to burglarize Curry’s pigeon feed store in South Baltimore. Prosecutors say Rayam was tipped off to the cash during the police investigation into the attempted burglary. It was just one crime detailed by prosecutors in an alleged racketeering and robbery scheme stretching back years.

Rayam also drew scrutiny years before the alleged robberies. While on duty, he shot three people over a nearly two-year period, prompting two state delegates and the local branch of the NAACP to call for an investigation.

In March 2009, Rayam and two other detectives were driving past an alley near the 2800 block of W. Garrison Ave., when they stopped to question Shawn Corey Cannady. The officers said Cannady began to drive a car toward them, and Rayam fired once, striking the car, which crashed into a house. Cannady died two days later. The department deemed Rayam’s actions justified, but city officials agreed in 2013 to pay Cannady's family $100,000.

The other shootings, in June and October 2007, did not cause deaths, and the department also deemed them justified. Rayam received a citation of valor for his role in one of those shootings.

The federal indictment alleged the officers stole cash from suspects during traffic stops, even driving to the homes of those in custody to steal more.

In May 2016, Gondo allegedly asked a police informant to set up a prospective drug buyer for the officers and to make sure the buyer arrived armed. Two days later, Gondo, Rayam and Hersl stopped the buyer on West North Avenue while he was driving to make the deal and Rayam stole $700 from him, prosecutors wrote. Gondo lied in a police report, writing that he saw the driver reaching in his pocket for a gun, prosecutors wrote. The police report omitted any mention of the cash, according to the indictment.

In September 2016, six of the officers, including Rayam and Gondo, stopped a man leaving a storage locker in Baltimore. Prosecutors allege Taylor lied and told the man they had a search warrant for the locker. Once inside, Rayam, Hersl and Jenkins allegedly stole $2,000 hidden in a sock, but left $2,800 in the sock.

According to prosecutors, Rayam later told Gondo he only “taxed” the man a “little bit.”

The officers are further accused of routinely turning off their body cameras to hide the alleged robberies.

In July 2016, they pulled over Ronald and Nancy Hamilton from Carroll County. Ronald Hamilton has twice served federal prison sentences for drug convictions. According to the indictment, Rayam asked him, “Where’s the money?” He had $3,400 in cash, which Rayam allegedly stole.

Next, they drove to the couple’s home and stole $20,000 in cash from the closet, prosecutors wrote.

Nancy Hamilton has sued the officers in Baltimore Circuit Court for $900,000, the first civil claims filed against the indicted officers. Other victims have said they have hired lawyers to explore lawsuits against the officers in the Gun Trace Task Force, which was deployed to interrupt Baltimore’s illegal gun trade.

Before leaving the Carroll County home that day, Jenkins asked Ronald Hamilton for a favor, according to the indictment. The sergeant allegedly asked for someone else, someone big, for the officers to rob next.

“Jenkins told him, you take care of us, we take care of you, or words to that effect,” prosecutors wrote.

tprudente@baltsun.com

twitter.com/Tim_Prudente

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