Feds indict Philadelphia officer in corruption case against elite Baltimore police unit

The federal corruption case into an elite Baltimore police unit has spread beyond the city as authorities arrested a Philadelphia officer Tuesday and charged him with helping distribute drugs stolen by rogue local cops.

Eric Troy Snell, 33, of Philadelphia joins eight Baltimore police officers already indicted in the growing scandal that has brought down the city’s once-celebrated gun unit.

Snell attended the Baltimore police academy with Detective Jemell Rayam, one of the eight Baltimore officers indicted. Last year, the two conspired to have Snell sell the cocaine and heroin that Rayam and others in the unit seized from the streets of Baltimore, prosecutors wrote in an indictment.

Snell arranged to sell the drugs, then shared the cash with Rayam, prosecutors wrote.

“Snell pulled out a large wad of several thousand dollars in cash and paid Rayam,” prosecutors wrote of an alleged payout in November 2016.

Snell is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and heroin. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

The Philadelphia Police Department will suspend Snell as the case proceeds, a police spokesman there said.

Online court records did not list an attorney for Snell. He is scheduled to appear Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Snell has been a Philadelphia officer for three years. He previously served as a Baltimore police officer, from July 2005 to March 2008. A police spokesman declined to comment, noting that Snell left the city nine years ago.

Last month, Rayam became the third Baltimore officer to plead guilty to federal racketeering charges. With his plea, Rayam admitted to robbing people he encountered on the streets, billing the city for overtime hours he didn’t work, and forging reports to cover his tracks.

Further, he admitted to helping a Baltimore drug dealer rob a rival. Rayam told a federal jury last month that he was surprised when he broke into his victim’s apartment and found a woman in bed.

“I pulled out my gun to startle her,” Rayam told the court. “I was trying to scare her. … I could have even said, ‘I’ll kill you.’ ”

Rayam and his fellow robbers made off with $12,000, a Rolex watch, a gold necklace, a handgun and 800 grams of heroin.

The eight officers in the elite Gun Trace Task Force carried out a campaign of robbery and extortion stretching back at least three years and often targeting suspected drug dealers, prosecutors say. The officers allegedly pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars they discovered while searching the homes and cars of criminals and some innocent civilians, too.

Four detectives — Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Maurice Ward and Rayam — have pleaded guilty to the federal racketeering charges. They are jailed and await sentencing next year.

Four other officers — Sgts. Thomas Allers and Wayne Jenkins and Detectives Marcus Taylor and Daniel Hersl — are fighting the charges. They too remain jailed, pending their trials, which are scheduled to begin in January.

Some of them are accused of overtime fraud. Jenkins filed for overtime while on vacation with his family in Myrtle Beach, S.C., prosecutors said. Taylor is accused of filing for overtime while vacationing in New York City and the Dominican Republic.

In fiscal year 2016, Jenkins earned a salary of about $85,400 plus $83,300 in overtime, prosecutors say. They say Taylor earned a salary of nearly $66,800 plus $56,200 in overtime pay.

The indictments led Mayor Catherine Pugh to order an audit of police overtime costs. The audit is expected to be finished by the end of next year, her spokesman said.

The scandal led Police Commissioner Kevin Davis to disband the gun unit and end plainclothes policing in Baltimore, saying it encouraged officers to cut corners.

City prosecutors, meanwhile, say they have been forced to drop criminal charges against more than 100 people whose cases hinged on the word of the officers.

Since the officers were taken off the streets earlier this year, gun arrests have plunged by 25 percent compared to last year. And gun violence continues to grip the city, with more than 300 killings in 2017.

Snell’s alleged role began in October 2016, prosecutors say, after Rayam recovered 9 ounces of cocaine tossed from a car during a chase near Mondawmin Mall.

Rayam’s supervisor, Jenkins, told him to sell the drugs, prosecutors wrote. So Rayam drove to Philadelphia and gave the drugs to Snell, prosecutors wrote.

Days later, they wrote, Rayam returned to Philadelphia to have Snell distribute 80 grams of heroin the unit had recovered. Snell paid them thousands of dollars from the sales of the drugs, prosecutors wrote.

Rayam was arrested months later in June 2017. He called Snell from jail, urging the Philadelphia police officer to stay silent, prosecutors wrote.

“Your brother never said anything … everything cool, yo?” Rayam asked on a recorded phone call.

Snell insisted his brother had not snitched, prosecutors wrote. Then he told Rayam to “stand tall,” saying he would watch out for Rayam’s children, prosecutors wrote.

Rayam took those words as a subtle threat against his children if he gave investigators information on Snell, they wrote.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

tprudente@baltsun.com

twitter.com/Tim_Prudente

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