Fifteen people, including four men who graduated together from C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air in 2005, have been arrested following a two-year undercover investigation by the Harford County Task Force into a marijuana smuggling ring based in Harford with ties to California.
The investigation, which began in 2010 and ended in October 2012, resulted in the seizure of 140 pounds of suspected marijuana, 20 guns, 14 vehicles and more than $140,000 in cash, according to a news release from the Harford County Sheriff's Office, which made the dismantling of the ring public Wednesday.
"It sends a message that even though you're selling or dealing marijuana, that we are going to take it seriously," said Lt. Lee Dunbar of the Sheriff's Office and a member of the task force. "And it did stem the flow, especially of this mid- to high-grade marijuana coming in and at the rate they were bringing it in. We seized 140 pounds; we know they were bringing in a lot more than that, especially before we even knew they were in existence or in operation."
The ring involved three "sub-organizations," Dunbar said, and mid- to high-grade marijuana that was selling for about $2,000 a pound for the mid-grade and up to $4,200 a pound for the high-grade.
The task force received a tip in 2010 that Dwight Narcis, of Aberdeen, was allegedly distributing narcotics in Harford County, Dunbar said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
Working on that tip, task force detectives began an investigation, doing "rudimentary things at the basic level," he said. "It was a grass roots effort, from the ground up."
Through that investigation, investigators determined Narcis was allegedly part of a larger organization.
"We can always make an arrest, but we wanted to cast a wide net," Dunbar said.
In early 2012, as part of the investigation of Narcis, detectives learned that Reinaldo Rodriguez, of Abingdon, was also allegedly distributing drugs, Dunbar said.
Pounds of pot
Police were told that both men allegedly were dealing in pounds of marijuana with a distribution network both in and around Harford County. Undercover officers purchased marijuana allegedly from Narcis and Rodriguez on several occasions and as a result of these purchases and subsequent investigation, obtained sufficient probable cause for a court ordered wiretap on both their telephones, according to the news release from the Sheriff's Office.
During the wiretap, detectives learned that William Marshall Edwards, of Joppa, and Allen Fadiora, of Nottingham, allegedly were dealing pounds of mid-grade marijuana in Baltimore, Harford and Frederick counties and in Baltimore City. Their phones were subsequently wiretapped.
That led detectives to the four C. Milton Wright graduates - Goutumm Karapurkar, also known as "The Goat," and Brian David Bell, both of Middle River, Bryan George Showalter, of Bel Air and Emeryville, Calif.; and William Riggin Russell III, Showalter's roommate in California, who were allegedly smuggling pounds of high-grade marijuana into Maryland from California, according to the release.
Showalter was the one who had the connection in California, Dunbar said, and was living there with Russell.
Detectives say Karapurkar, Bell and Russell would fly from BWI Marshall Airport to Oakland, Calif., to meet with Showalter, who is originally from Bel Air. Showalter allegedly would make arrangements with marijuana distributors in California to purchase multiple pounds of high-grade marijuana. The three would rent two cars and then allegedly drive the drugs back to Maryland,
Once back in Maryland, they would allegedly sell their high grade marijuana in Harford and Baltimore counties. One car would have the drugs, Dunbar said, the other would be in a decoy car in front, that way if it got stopped, the other would keep going and the drugs wouldn't be discovered.
Dunbar said the group allegedly transported 50 to 75 pounds of marijuana during each trip and allegedly stashed it at Bell and Karapurkar's house in Middle River. The cross country trips were made every two to three months, he said.
Dunbar said detectives don't know how many trips the group made but believe they had been going on for some time.
The four who attended high school together would allegedly sell to Edwards and Fadiora, who in turn allegedly sold to Narcis and Rodriguez, Dunbar said.
In early October 2012, during one the trips to bring marijuana back to Maryland from California, Karapurkar, Bell, Showalter and Russell were stopped by members of the Task Force at Bell's residence in Middle River and arrested without incident. Seized at the time of their arrest were approximately 57 pounds of marijuana in multiple suitcases.