In October 2015, when a drug distribution crew in Northeast Baltimore learned of a rival who they believed had drugs and cash at his apartment, they called the police.
They weren’t reporting the rival to turn him in. They wanted the officers’ help robbing him.
One of the dealers had grown up with Gun Trace Task Force Detective Momodu Gondo, who said his partner, Detective Jemell Rayam “had experience” with doing home invasions.
“I had considered doing a fake search warrant, that way no violence would be involved, and confiscate the money,” Rayam testified. His co-conspirators “had other ideas — that we’d just run up in there, so that’s how we did it.
“The plan was to run up, and steal the money, and if they had to, kill the individuals.”
Rayam, who has pleaded guilty to racketeering for years worth of brazen crimes, took the stand Monday at the trial of two fellow officers who are fighting their charges. Rayam previously testified about the home invasion in the fall, at a federal trial for the drug crew he and Gondo worked with. Together, their testimony at both trials offers a detailed account of one case where the officers dropped the pretense of being police in the pursuit of greed.
Gondo’s ties to the drug crew are what brought down the corrupt Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force. Police investigating the drug crew heard Gondo on a wiretap, and shifted their investigation to Gondo, Rayam and eventually the rest of the unit. Gondo has also pleaded guilty, and is expected to testify at some point in the officers’ trial.
The first step in carrying out the robbery was to use some of their police skills to scope out the apartment. Using a LiveViewGPS tracker to follow suspects’ movements — often, in the GTTF’s case, without a warrant — they watched the target over an app on a phone. A member of the drug crew “was real adamant” that he had seen $100,000 inside the apartment previously, Gondo said.
Gondo, Rayam and Glen Kyle Wells, Gondo’s childhood friend, met up. Gondo was the lookout, monitoring the police radio. Rayam and Wells approached the home when it appeared to be empty. Rayam knocked on the door. No answer. He then used his shoulder to force the door open, and they made their way to the bedroom where the money was said to be.
There, in the bed, was a woman.
“I was shocked,” Rayam said. “I didn’t think anyone else would be there.”
Rayam was not wearing a mask, but had on a hoodie that he quickly pulled tight around his face. Then he pulled out his gun to startle her.
“I could’ve said, ‘I’ll kill you,’ ” Rayam said, unsure of his specific words.
The woman urged them to take jewelry and money, which he did. He collected a watch, a chain, heroin, money and a gun. The money was less than they had been told would be inside, but still was about $10,000 to $12,000, the officers recalled.
The group fled, going back to Gondo’s condo in Owings Mills to divide the items up. Gondo took the chain. Wells took the watch, to give as a “finders’ fee” to the person who had provided information about there being drugs and money in the house. They weighed some heroin that was taken, and Wells took 550 grams out of the 800 grams.
Wells gave Rayam between $4,000 and $6,000 of the cash. Rayam also took the remaining heroin.
Rayam had previously taken part in another home invasion a year earlier, one in which he recruited a cousin and a friend from high school to don police vests and steal $20,000 from a couple while he stood lookout.
For the most part, Rayam said, he liked using his badge to rob people who he was arresting for drug offenses. He preferred to take some of their money, but not all, and if a victim spoke up, they would — he surmised — be forced to essentially admit what they were up to.
“Then it’s my word against theirs,” he said.