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Churchville man pleads guilty, is sentenced on drug charges in federal wiretap case

A Churchville man was sentenced to 71 months in prison after pleading guilty to drug charges in Maryland’s federal court as the result of a monthslong wiretap investigation out of Harford County.

Michael Ronnell Wells pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute drugs, according to documents filed with Maryland’s U.S. District Court.

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The investigation, dubbed “Operation All Aboard,” examined the distribution of large amounts of cocaine in the county, according to a statement from the Harford County Narcotics Task Force, which conducted the investigation.

Two community tips led to wiretaps of 18 phones and one social media messenger platform. The investigation spanned more than a year, and multiple search warrants were executed throughout Harford County. The state and federal indictments occurred between July and October 2020, with arrests continuing until April 2021, according to the statement.

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According to a statement of facts filed in the case, investigators intercepted multiple calls between Wells and customers who were looking to buy crack cocaine in March of 2020.

Wells discussed money and selling drugs with customers and co-defendants in the federal case against him, the documents state. In one phone conversation, investigators recorded, they heard noises that “sounded like plastic bags,” leading them to believe he was packaging drugs. In others, he discussed quantities of drugs about to be sold. He also spoke to a customer, the documents state, about crack investigators believed he had recently cooked, saying “the joint may still be soft and may not be ready.”

According to the documents, Wells also called some of his co-defendants to discuss how much crack they still had and getting reliable transportation so they could distribute it. The prosecution and the defense agreed that Wells distributed between 112 and 196 grams of crack cocaine, according to the plea agreement.

Wells must also serve 4 years of supervised release, according to the Aug. 31 judgment, and submit to mental health and substance abuse treatment, among other conditions.

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Wells was charged in the same case with six others, including an Arizona man, Jack Anderson, who is charged with selling cocaine for his co-defendants to bring back to Harford County. Defendants are accused of driving across the country to Tuscon and then back to Harford County with the cocaine, according to court documents. All told, 22 people were indicted across cases filed in Maryland’s state and federal courts, some with maximum sentences up to life imprisonment.

On the federal side, Wells is the fourth to plead guilty.

The task force alleges that two Harford residents, Che Durbin and Reggie Bolden, were responsible for leading this effort to distribute of large amounts of cocaine in Harford County. Durbin and Bolden’s cases are ongoing.

Harford County State’s Attorney Albert Peisinger applied to a judge to authorize the wiretaps. Few people at the state level can apply for a wiretap — state’s attorneys, the attorney general and the state prosecutor.

The Harford County Drug Narcotics Task force is a multi-jurisdictional entity composed of police from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace police departments, the DEA and Harford State’s Attorney’s Office. It is focused on mid- to upper-level drug, homeland security, and vice issues.

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