First, the inmates in Baltimore prisons were using smuggled cell phones to order hits on witnesses(see Murder on Call story). Now, the feds have turned the tables, allowing in a smuggled cell phone that could record not only the person talking, but the conversations of those around him.
As a result, the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office has filed charges against two men in connection with a home invasion robbery that left one victim dead. In other cases, the devices have enabled authorities to arrest five people suspected in at least 12 murders or shootings in just a few weeks.
"Technology trumps crime," Theresa R. Stoop, the special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said in a statement. "ATF's Violent Crime Impact Team has reversed the tables on these violent offenders by using the same tools of the trade against them as they use to carry out their crimes."
Here is a statement from the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office:
Kevin Dorsey, age 26, and Rodney Lockett, age 25, both of Baltimore, were charged by criminal complaint today with committing an armed home invasion robbery in which two victims were shot, one of whom died, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
The affidavit filed with the criminal complaint reveals that evidence of the crime was gathered through a modified cellular telephone that law enforcement officials gave to an inmate in the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore, also known as "Supermax." The cell phone was used to record telephone conversations and also as a listening device to record conversations held in the vicinity of the phone.
"I am grateful to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for supporting this novel, bold and creative undercover investigation, in which law enforcement officials gave a cell phone to an inmate in Baltimore's Supermax jail and recorded conversations made on and around the phone," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "We expect other charges to result from the many conversations recorded during 'Operation Dial-a-Cell.'"
"Technology trumps crime," says ATF Special Agent in Charge Theresa R. Stoop. "ATF's Violent Crime Impact Team has reversed the tables on these violent offenders by using the same tools of the trade against them as they use to carry out their crimes."
According to the affidavit, during the course of this undercover operation, an inmate used the cellphone to conduct conversations with violent offenders regarding firearms, drug-trafficking, acts of violence, and other criminal offenses. Based on the use of the cellphone, law enforcement officers were able to obtain accurate, often real-time information about the whereabouts and criminal activities of other violent offenders, including several who were suspects in shootings and murders. The inmate also used the cellphone to have recorded conversations with violent offenders on the street about crimes they had committed. The inmate also engaged in, and was sometimes able to record, conversations with other inmates at MCAC regarding efforts by those inmates to intimidate or retaliate against witnesses. Based on the conversations and other evidence developed through the use of this cellphone, at least five violent offenders who were collectively responsible for at least 12 murders or shootings were arrested on federal or state drug or gun charges in a matter of weeks.
According to the complaint, Dorsey and Lockett committed a home-invasion robbery in Baltimore on December 29, 2008, in which two victims, a male and a female, were shot, one of whom died. The affidavit alleges that on December 30, 2009, Dorsey called the cooperating inmate on the inmate's cellphone and described the incident in detail, often using "pig latin" as a form of coded language. During that conversation, the complaint alleges, Dorsey stated that he had shot the male victim, who later died, and that Lockett had shot the female victim. Dorsey also stated that they had stolen approximately $7,000 in cash along with some jewelry. Dorsey later told the inmate that Lockett had used a .357-caliber handgun loaded with 38-caliber ammunition. Lockett was arrested on January 5, 2009 after being found with marijuana and a .357-caliber handgun loaded with 38-caliber ammunition and is currently in federal custody on drug and gun charges relating to that arrest. Dorsey was arrested two weeks later on drug charges and is currently in state custody on those charges.
The complaint alleges a conspiracy to commit a robbery affecting interstate commerce and possession and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of that robbery.
The evidence developed during this operation regarding the Chauncey Avenue robbery and shootings has been forwarded to local authorities for further investigation.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the robbery conspiracy charge and a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine for the firearm charge.