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Supervisor of Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force set to plead guilty

The former supervisor of the corrupt Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force is set to plead guilty on Friday, according to court records and his attorney.

Court records show former Sgt. Wayne Jenkins is scheduled for a rearraignment on that morning in U.S. District Court, and his attorney, Steve Levin, confirmed he will be entering a guilty plea.

Jenkins will become the sixth Baltimore officer charged in the federal racketeering case to plead guilty. He was one of three officers slated to go to trial on Jan. 22.

Levin declined to comment further, including specifying which counts Jenkins is pleading guilty to and whether he is cooperating with authorities.

Prosecutors allege Jenkins led a unit that robbed drug dealers and innocent civilians, and in some cases directed that drugs and guns seized by the unit be re-sold on the streets. Sometimes, prosecutors said, Jenkins pretended to be a federal agent to conceal his identity. His unit falsified court documents to cover its tracks — or didn’t file paperwork at all — and also raked in tens of thousands of dollars in unearned overtime pay from the city, according to the indictment.

Jenkins was later hit with additional charges alleging that in 2010 he was involved with planting drugs on a suspect who had fled from police and crashed. Federal prosecutors say Det. Sean Suiter was duped into recovering the drugs from the scene. Suiter was killed in November, one day before he was set to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the claims.

The case may be the biggest corruption scandal to hit the Baltimore police department: Seven officers from a single high-profile unit were indicted in February and charged with racketeering conspiracy, the result of a wiretap investigation by federal authorities that also included placing recording devices in police vehicles. An eighth officer from the unit was indicted in August.

A former city officer who was working for police in Philadelphia also has been charged with participating in the conspiracy.

The alleged crimes took place during a federal civil rights review of the police department, and stretch back years to when some of the officers were in other units in different parts of the city. One of the officers who pleaded guilty had been promoted to a Drug Enforcement Administration task force.

The fallout from the indictments has included hundreds of dropped court cases that relied on the word of the officers, with the public defender’s office saying thousands of cases have been compromised. Notices for dozens of civil claims also have been filed with the city.

Jenkins previously had been under investigation in a 2014 case in which a man arrested by police said drugs were planted in his vehicle. Walter Price’s attorney said closed-circuit television footage cast doubt on the charging documents filed by Jenkins’ partner and approved by Jenkins, and a city prosecutor formally made a complaint with police internal affairs. Months later, Jenkins was investigated in a separate case for driving into a suspect who was fleeing on foot.

Police officials have largely refused to discuss their handling of the gun task force officers or answer questions about the officers’ pasts.

Jenkins was promoted to supervisor of the Gun Trace Task Force in June 2016, at a time when Commissioner Kevin Davis was ramping up efforts to go after “trigger pullers.” The unit was lauded in a department newsletter for the number of guns it was recovering.

But Det. Momodu Gondo, who has pleaded guilty in the case, testified in a federal drug trial last fall that Jenkins “was like an animal, just going about investigations the wrong way.” Jenkins was “overly aggressive, putting people in harm’s way,” he said.

“I never saw anything like this,” Gondo said of Jenkins.

Federal prosecutors say Jenkins learned of the federal investigation into the task force “from sources within the BPD and from an Assistant State’s Attorney.” Those sources have not been identified.

After the officers were arrested on March 1, 2017, prosecutors say, Jenkins “directed the defendants to ‘keep their mouths shut’ and ‘stick to the story,’ ” referring to videos he and the other officers had made that contained “false reenactments of the events the defendants participated in.”

The indictment details how Jenkins and Detectives Marcus Taylor, Evodio Hendrix and Maurice Ward entered a man’s residence and stole $200,000 from a safe they opened. Jenkins put $100,000 back into it and had other members of the unit film a video on Taylor’s cellphone that purported to show them opening the safe and finding the money, according to the indictment.

Taylor and Det. Daniel Hersl are planning to contest the charges against them at trial later this month.

In another incident in the spring of 2015, when Jenkins led a unit in the Special Enforcement Section, prosecutors said detectives interrupted a drug transaction. Jenkins took a bag containing 20 to 25 pounds of marijuana, and a second bag containing $20,000 to $25,000. Jenkins told the buyer and seller that he was a DEA agent and would let them go, but that he might exercise his discretion to charge them in the future. He then took two other officers into a wooded area, and gave them $5,000 cash. Prosecutors say after dividing up the money, Jenkins drove the officers to a strip club in Baltimore County — where Jenkins robbed a stripper.

It was not clear how much prison time Jenkins faces. Of the officers who already have pleaded guilty in the case, Gondo faces the most time — up to 40 years — based on his role both in the police racketeering conspiracy and with a drug crew. Det. Jemell Rayam, Hendrix, Ward and former Sgt. Thomas Allers, Jenkins’ predecessor as supervisor of the unit, all face up to 20 years each, prosecutors say.

An earlier version misstated the amount of prison time Det. Rayam, Hendrix, Ward and former Sgt. Thomas Allers face. The Sun regrets the error.

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

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