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.
As a result of this investigation, detectives executed 28 search and seizure warrants, which resulted in additional arrests.
Several cases have been adjudicated while others are in various stages of prosecution. Among those arrested were:
• Terry Head, 33, of the 1700 block of Melwood Court in Edgewood, charged with drug possession with intent to distribute, marijuana possession and conspiracy to distribute drugs other than marijuana;
• Goutumm Jayant Karapurkar, 25, and Brian David Bell, 26, both of the first block of Oak Grove Drive in Middle River, charged with drug possession with intent to distribute, importing drugs into the state and marijuana possession;
• Bryan George Showalter, 25, of the 1500 block of Bentley Circle in Bel Air and the 800 block of West McArthur Boulevard in Emeryville, Calif., charged with drug possession with intent to distribute, importing drugs into the state and marijuana possession;
• William Riggin Russell III, 26, Showalter's roommate in California, of the 800 block of West McArthur Boulevard in Emeryville, Calif., charged with drug possession with intent to distribute, importing drugs into the state and marijuana possession;
• Cody Adam McPherson, 21, of the 1100 block of Charles View Way in Towson, charged with drug possession with intent to distribute and marijuana possession;
• Allen Olaide Fadiora, 27, of the first block of Canoga Place in Nottingham, charged with drug possession with intent to distribute and marijuana possession;
• Kason Wise Allah Stephens, 35, of the 6300 block of Fairdel Avenue in Baltimore and the 200 block of Woodbine Street in Brooklyn, N.Y., charged with distributing drugs, distributing a large amount of drugs, drug possession with intent to distribute and marijuana possession;
• James Edward Bryant Jr., 39, of the 100 block of Edgewood Road in Edgewood, charged with drug possession with intent to distribute, marijuana possession and conspiracy to distribute drugs;
• Frank Henry Buck, 36, of the 5000 block of Allender Road in White Marsh, charged with narcotics possession with intent to distribute, drug possession other than marijuana, possession of a firearm with a felony conviction and other firearms charges;
• William Marshall Edwards, 33, of the 100 block of Doncaster Road in Joppa, charged with drug possession with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute drugs, marijuana possession and use of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime;
• Adrian Lamar Goodwin, 26, of the 4800 block of Limestone Court in Aberdeen, charged with narcotics possession with intent to distribute, drug possession other than marijuana, drug possession with intent to distribute, marijuana possession and use of a firearm in drug distribution;
• Reinaldo Rodriguez Jr., 37, of the 400 block of Kentmore Terrace in Abingdon, whose indictment is pending in Harford County Circuit Court;
• Dwight Narcis, 35, of the 600 block of Possom Trot Way in Aberdeen, charged with drug possession with intent to distribute, marijuana possession and conspiracy to distribute drugs; and
• Anthony Rashaw Brooks, 33, of the 400 block of Village Drive in Havre de Grace, charged with drug possession with intent to distribute and marijuana possession.
In addition to members of the Harford County Task Force, the DEA's Oakland California Division, Baltimore County Police and Baltimore County's Office of the State's Attorney assisted in the investigation.
Wide ranging operation
Dunbar said more arrests likely could have been made, given the number of people buying the drugs.
"This was hitting the street in Harford County, whether it's young people in school or adults, it's one of the most abused drugs out there next to alcohol," Dunbar said. "I feel like we made a significant impact...it's 140 pounds we took off the street plus what they're not bringing in now."
"People are willing to take the risk to make tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said. "We will remain vigilant at the task force and do what we've got to do to get the job done."
"Drug operations know no boundaries," Sheriff Jesse Bane said in the news release, congratulating the task force on the arrests. "Successful cases depend on good investigative work and strong law enforcement partnerships working together. The Task Force demonstrated these attributes and in doing so these detectives took down yet another drug organization working in Harford County."
Bane also recognized citizen involvement.
"Drug investigations typically begin because someone has the wherewithal to make a call and give us a tip," he said. "Not all tips work out and as frustrating as the wait is for our citizens [and the police] it may take months for that one tip to pay off. But in this case it did."
A lone tip in 2010 and a second in 2012 linked two vital pieces of this investigation, Bane noted.
"Cases like this demonstrate the power of citizen involvement and how one phone call can help to effectively dismantle a drug operation," he said.