Baltimore detective charged in racketeering case to plead guilty

A Baltimore police detective charged along with members of his unit with stealing from citizens and falsifying overtime slips is pleading guilty, his attorney confirmed.

Detective Maurice Kilpatrick Ward is scheduled for a rearraignment on July 24 in U.S. District Court, a hearing where a defendant can change their plea.

Attorney Paul Enzinna confirmed Thursday that Ward will be pleading guilty, but he declined to say to which counts. Ward is charged with racketeering conspiracy and aiding and abetting racketeering.

He was among seven officers, all members of an elite police department unit, who were arrested in March following an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI.

Ward would be the first of the seven to enter a guilty plea in a case that raised fresh questions about oversight of the Baltimore Police Department and police and city prosecutors' investigations of misconduct. The detectives allegedly committed the crimes as the U.S. Department of Justice was conducting a civil rights investigation of the agency, which led to a consent decree.

Federal prosecutors said at the time of the arrests that the officers faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy and for racketeering.

A trial in the case has been scheduled for January. Like the other officers, Ward has been held pending trial since his arrest.

Ward joined the Baltimore Police Department in 2003 and was assigned to the Gun Trace Task Force in June 2016. The plain clothes unit was tasked with getting guns off the streets.

Federal prosecutors said Ward, along with other officers, stole $17,000 from a home where they executed a search warrant. Ward had only been with the unit for two weeks when the alleged theft occurred.

According to the indictment, the subject of a search warrant showed Ward, Detective Evodio Hendrix and Sgt. Wayne Jenkins a shoe box containing $10,000. The officers sent the man downstairs, and stole $2,000 from the box and $15,000 from a boot in a bedroom, prosecutors say.

In another incident, prosecutors said, Ward wrote a false incident report to conceal the unit's theft of "at least $1,000" from another man. Ward's report said the officers had seized a handgun, baggies of marijuana, a shoe bag and a T-shirt, but did not mention the cash.

In another incident, prosecutors said, he took part in the theft of $200,000 from a safe.

"These defendants were allegedly involved in stopping people who had not committed crimes, and not only seizing money but pocketing it," said then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein at a news conference in March. "These are really robberies by people wearing police uniforms."

The indictment also accused Ward of submitting false overtime slips when he was at home in Middle River or on vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C. In fiscal year 2016, Ward earned $135,268 in total pay, on a base salary of $72,775.

The allegations prompted Mayor Catherine Pugh to order an outside audit of police overtime spending, which has skyrocketed in recent years.

Police blame the rising costs on a shortage of officers and the needs of a patrol staffing schedule, but the case raised questions about how much overtime was fraudulent. In May, a lieutenant overseeing the Horseshoe Casino district was charged with overtime theft, filling out time sheets that said he was working while he was observed at home on the Eastern Shore, police say.

The U.S. Attorney's office acknowledged that a rearraignment was scheduled for Ward, but declined to comment Thursday. In a court filing in the case earlier this month, prosecutors said plea negotiations between "multiple defendants" and the government had been taking place since March 5.

In addition to Ward, Jenkins, and Hendrix, the other officers charged in the case are Momodu Bondeva Kenton Gondo, Daniel Thomas Hersl, Jemell Lamar Rayam and Marcus Roosevelt Taylor.

All have pleaded not guilty except Jenkins, who has not been arraigned but is scheduled for arraignment on July 7.

Taylor, meanwhile, is fighting a judge's order that he be detained pending trial, and has filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals, records show.

The investigation began when the Drug Enforcement Administration came across Gondo while investigating a drug organization. The probe eventually involved the FBI and electronic surveillance — including a recording device placed in a Baltimore police vehicle.

Gondo is accused in a separate indictment of participating in a drug organization and tipping its members off to investigations.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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