Eight members of a drug ring that sold up to $20,000 worth of heroin a week from an East Baltimore housing project pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy charges.
The four men and four women who pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine were among more than 80 charged in the 18-month investigation of alleged kingpin Reginald L. "Reds" Green, prosecutors said.
That investigation led to charges in a $6.5 million-a-week heroin ring blamed for the interstate distribution of the potent opiate substitute fentanyl, which has been linked to 27 Maryland deaths.
Prosecutors described those pleading guilty yesterday as low-level members of an organization that sold heroin and cocaine -- but no fentanyl -- from the Lafayette Courts public housing development at 200 Aisquith St.
Some of the members were "runners" who ferried drugs to customers and others were girlfriends who knowingly lived off drug proceeds.
After obtaining a court order in November to tap the telephones of those suspected in the Lafayette Courts organization, investigators learned of a connection with a New York-based ring that was distributing fentanyl.
After heroin addicts who unknowingly purchased bags of the synthetic opiate began dying, authorities in the city and Howard County forged an unprecedented alliance and, with federal authorities, searched for the source of the fentanyl and heroin being smuggled from New York to Maryland.
Carlos Ortiz, 26, of the Bronx, N.Y., the alleged head of the interstate narcotics operation, at one point was supplying heroin to the Green organization, said Bernard L. Taylor, a Howard County prosecutor involved in the investigations.
Both accused drug kingpins are scheduled to stand trial Sept. 24 in Baltimore Circuit Court and both are awaiting trial in U.S. District Court. The New York man is also among 32 defendants to be tried in the fall in Howard County.
Pleading guilty yesterday to conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine were: Karen Green, 29, of the first block of Bonum St.; Donald Eason, 21, of the 4800 block of Reisterstown Road; Dante L. Barksdale, 18, of the 1300 block of E. Fayette St.; Sharon Sanders, 31, of the 200 block of Aisquith St.; and Stanley Owens, age and address unknown.
Pleading guilty to conspiracy and to possession of narcotics with intent to distribute were Nena Garnes, 19, of the 1700 block of Waverly Way; Jerome Berryman Jr., 25, of the 1200 block of N. Caroline St.; and Shaneequah S. Jennings, 21, of the 500 block of Denview Way.
Sentences meted out yesterday by Judge John N. Prevas ranged from six months to 18 months in jail.