A joint investigation by the Harford County HIDTA Narcotics Task Force and Baltimore County Police has resulted in federal charges filed against nine people in connection with distributing large amounts of heroin from Northeast Baltimore into Harford and Baltimore counties, other counties in Maryland and surrounding states, police said.
One of those charged is a detective with the Baltimore City Police Department who was indicted in March on federal racketeering charges unlrelated to the Harford case.
The drug-trafficking organization was linked to 15 fatal and 48 non-fatal overdoses in Harford and Baltimore counties, according to a news release from the Harford County Sheriff's Office.
Not quite four months into 2017, Harford County has already recorded half the number of fatal heroin overdoses as it did in all of 2016, Capt. Lee Dunbar, commander of the Harford task force, said during a news briefing Monday at the Sheriff's Office headquarters on Main Street in Bel Air.
As of Monday, there were 28 fatal overdoses and 106 non-fatal overdoses so far this year, Dunbar said.
In spring 2015, members of the the Harford County Task Force began analyzing the data collected from every fatal and non-fatal overdose in Harford County.
That analysis led to the disruption of the Northeast Baltimore drug-trafficking organization, which had distributed and conspired to distribute more than two kilograms of heroin and had a "wide span of control" in Harford, and related arrests of nine people considered mid- and high-level players in the organization, Dunbar said.
"Not every single person, not every arrest was derived from a heroin response, but it was a catalyst to get it kicked off was data from our overdose responses," Dunbar said. "Without having data that's available that we glean from our heroin overdose responses, we would be limited in more areas in our law enforcement approach to heroin."
Without that data, the task force would have a lot of gaps in its intelligence, in who's dealing, how organizations are structured and other information, he said.
"Gathering all the data we do and sharing with other agenices has proved in many cases to be very successful," Dunbar said.
During the course of their investigation, detectives seized 1,303 grams of heroin, 193 grams of cocaine, four handguns and $18,810 cash, according to a news release the Harford Sheriff's Office issued Monday morning.
Early on in the investigation, the task force identified two men in connection with two fatal overdoses, Lamar Kaintuck, known as "Chris," 28, of Baltimore, in connection with the 2015 fatal overdose of a Bel Air resident in Calvert County, and Ivan Brown, known as "Mike," 33, of Baltimore, in connection with the 2016 fatal overdose in Bel Air.
Kaintuck was recently sentenced to seven years in prison.
Brown pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. He is facing a minimum of 20 years in prison at his sentencing in May.
In sharing heroin overdose information, the Task Force and Baltimore County Police Narcotics Section learned they had common suspects linked to fatal and non-fatal overdoses in their counties, specifically Antonio Shropshire, also known as "Brill," according to the news release.
The two narcotics divisions joined forces and started a large scale undercover investigation into the Northeast Baltimore organization.
After several months of investigation that included surveillance, information from confidential sources and undercover purchases of heroin, narcotics detectives, special agents from DEA and DEA task force officers from both agencies developed enough probable cause to obtain a federal wiretap order, police said.
The investigation resulted in federal charges for the following defendants for a heroin distribution conspiracy allegedly operating in the Baltimore metropolitan area, including Harford County:
Antonio Shropshire, "Brill," 31, charged with possession with the intent to distribute, distribution of heroin and cocaine and conspiracy to distribute at least one kilogram of heroin.
Antoine Washington, "Twan," 27, charged with possession with intent to distribute, distribution of heroin resulting in death and conspiracy to distribute at least one kilogram of heroin.
Alexander Campbell, "Munch," 28, charged with possession with the intent to distribute, distribution of heroin and conspiracy to distribute at least one kilogram of heroin.
Omari Thomas, "Lil Brill," 25, charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin.
Glenn Wells, "Lou," 31, charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin.
Momodu Gondo, "GMoney," 34, charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin. Gondo is one of seven Baltimore City Police officers who served in a high-profile gun unit who were indicted on federal racketeering charges, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Another suspect was charged federally in a separate indictment as a result of this heroin investigation: Aaron Anderson, "Black," 29, charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin, conspiracy to distribute at least one kilogram of heroin and firearm offenses.
Several state indictments are also pending as a result of this investigation.
Dunbar called this investigation, which is ongoing, a success story.
"We're going to continue to do this in the fight against the heroin epidemic," he said, adding detectives will work their way up the chains of the organizations to disrupt them further.
It may not be possible to entirely dismantle them, however, he said.
"There will be people who come and fill that role. A young man on the street corner may see it as his chance to step in," Dunbar said. "And we'll be right there on their heels and locking them up as well."