A legally blind Middle River man Harford County authorities allege is a drug "kingpin" at the head of an organization that transported, manufactured and sold crack cocaine between New York and Harford County, is being held in the Harford County Detention Center on $100,000 bail.
The man, Neworb N. Brown, 38, who police said had others drive him around to allegedly conduct his illicit business because he is blind, was arrested Saturday by members of the Harford County Task Force and charged with being a drug kingpin, a felony that comes with a sentence of up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
Brown has also been charged with distributing a large amount of drugs, distribution of drugs, possession of drugs with intent to distribute, importing drugs into the state and conspiracy to distribute drugs, according to charging documents.
He was the focus of a seven-week investigation by the task force, which began in late January and revealed an alleged conspiracy by Brown, his brother, Srewob Brown, 38, of Edgewood, and an alleged supplier in New York named Raymond Keating to transport cocaine from New York to Maryland, convert it to crack cocaine, divide the crack and then sell it in Harford County, according to charging documents.
Investigators used electronic surveillance of Neworb Brown and his co-conspirator's text messages and cell phone calls, visual surveillance of their movements between Edgewood and Middle River and alleged purchases of crack from Srewob by a detective to document the conspiracy involving Neworb and an organization of 17 people, according to charging documents.
The detective reported buying more than 100 grams of crack from Srewob during the investigation, according to court documents.
Neworb and Srewob, along with Tameka C. Harris, 34, of Middle River, left Neworb's home in Middle River Saturday morning for New York City, allegedly to replenish their drug supply.
Task force investigators tracked the group electronically to and from New York, and Neworb Brown and Harris were pulled over on I-95 when they got into Harford County the same day. Srewob was not with them, and investigators expected him to return to Maryland "some time in the near future," according to the charging documents.
Cristie Kahler, spokesperson for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, declined to comment further Monday "because this case remains an active investigation."
Harris has been charged with distributing drugs, conspiracy to distribute drugs, drug possession with intent to distribute and distributing drugs near a school property. She was released from the Harford County jail Sunday on $15,000 bond, according to online court records.
Neworb Brown appeared via closed-circuit television from the jail for a bail review hearing before Harford County District Court Judge David Carey Monday.
Brown was held without bail when he was arrested, and Assistant Public Defender Andrew Geraghty argued that the bail should be reduced to a "reasonable" level, noting that Brown had lived in Harford County for 20 years, and he is legally blind and living on Social Security disability benefits.
Geraghty also said Brown has a son whom he sees five times a week.
"He is certainly not the kind of person we would think of as a drug kingpin," Geraghty said.
Assistant State's Attorney Scott Lewis noted that Brown had been under investigation since January, and that investigators determined he conducted his business by having other people drive him around.
Harris was driving the vehicle when she and Brown were pulled over Saturday, according to charging documents.
Lewis said that, under Maryland criminal law regarding drug kingpins, "there is a presumption that he is both a risk of flight and a risk to public safety."
A drug kingpin is described in Criminal Law Section 5-613 as "an organizer, supervisor, financier, or manager who acts as a co-conspirator in a conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, dispense, transport in, or bring into the State a controlled dangerous substance."
Brown was blinking and trying to focus his eyes during the hearing, and Geraghty noted that his visual impairment lessened the likelihood that he would flee Harford County, if released on bond.
Carey took the defendant's lack of sight into account and set his bond at $100,000.
"The fact that he isn't able to transport himself, I think that's appropriate," Carey said of the bond.