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Drug probe at SSA apparently ends with 4 charged


Two federal agencies and Baltimore County police have apparently ended an 11-month investigation into drug dealing centered at the Social Security Administration facilities in Woodlawn that netted charges against just four employees.

Phil Gambino, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, said the investigation was initiated in April after a worker's complaint about narcotics being distributed at the Woodlawn complex.

Despite the number of agencies involved and the length of the investigation, the few charges placed involved only lower-level cocaine dealing, according to the criminal charges placed against the suspects.

Making the investigation public also involved some apparent confusion in the past couple weeks among the agencies involved -- all over when announcement of arrests, the first of which was made in May, should have been made.

Special Agent Vincent Recupido, chief criminal investigator for the Federal Protective Service in Philadelphia, did not return several telephone calls yesterday.

The Philadelphia office was used to insure the anonymity of the undercover woman used in the investigation.

Officials at Social Security and the Baltimore County police could not estimate the cost of manpower and equipment involved in the probe and subsequent court time.

Louis D. Enoff, acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration, would not elaborate on the investigation beyond a brief press release.

"It is my sincere hope that the indefensible actions of a few employees will not impugn the long-standing, distinguished reputation of the 64,000 SSA professionals across this country that have dedicated their careers to serving the public," Mr. Enoff said.

In addition to the Federal Protective Service and county police, agents of the Department of Health and Human Service's Office of the Inspector General participated in the undercover probe.

County police, who viewed the conclusion of the investigation as a matter of public record, were prepared to offer a news release to the media.

But supervisors in the federal agencies expressed a reluctance to reveal the results of the investigation.

Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a Baltimore County police spokesman, said he was contacted several weeks ago by the county police supervisor of the detail assigned to Woodlawn.

"Apparently, the final arrest had been made, and they felt a press release would have been in order," Sergeant Doarnberger said.

"The folks on the federal end felt they wanted to wait, to hold off announcing it, because there might be more arrests."

He added that the investigation was justified, no matter how dubious the results, "because the activity was disrupting the workplace."

The sales involved one-half gram and gram quantities of the narcotic while some of the suspects were working on government time, Baltimore County police said.

Officers also confiscated 6 grams of cocaine in the apartment shared by two of the suspects.

One of undercover transactions made by authorities occurred on on the parking lot of the agency's supply building.

The other buys were on nearby parking lots of a bowling alley and fast-food restaurant.

One of the workers, Mark Anthony Thomas, 38, a warehouse foreman of the 7900 block of Glengary Court, Glen Burnie, has already pleaded guilty to one count of cocaine distribution and received an 18-month suspended sentence with three years' supervised probation.

Two other suspects face trial. They are Joseph N. Hill Jr., 33, a driver in the transportation section, and Latonya L. Hudson, 30, a staff assistant in the Executive Office Section for the Office of the Commissioner. Both reside in the 7400 block of of Lesada Drive, Woodlawn.

A fourth suspect, Jack Cross Jr., 37, a warehouse foreman of the 4700 block of Byron Road, Randallstown, has been released on his own recognizance.

He was charged with selling one-half gram and 1-gram quantities of cocaine and $25 worth of marijuana.

The four arrested have been placed in temporary non-duty status, Mr. Enoff said.

"They are being paid their normal salaries, but cannot physically come onto the property," he added.

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