Anne Arundel County police swept through several communities early today, confiscating a county-record amount of marijuana and apparently breaking up a drug-ring active from Baltimore to Prince George's County.
More than 50 police officers participated in the early-morning raids that targeted homes and mini-storage bins in Anne Arundel and Harford counties.
The drug distribution ring, police said, had ties in Mexico, as well.
At least 800 pounds of marijuana worth $1 million was seized, along with $70,000 in cash.
The state's attorney's office said many more items may be seized under the state's drug forfeiture law, including cars and a $500,000 Pasadena home.
Police said 11 people were arrested and are expected to be charged with drug distribution later today.
"It is the largest marijuana seizure we've experienced in this county," said Sgt. Joseph Bisesi, a narcotics officer who led several of the raids.
"This is a major distribution ring," said Lt. Harry L. Collier, commander of the Anne Arundel County police narcotics section. "We hope this will break up a major organization."
The raids began at 2 a.m. at several storage bins in Glen Burnie and Pasadena. Armed with federal warrants, police confiscated 200 pounds of marijuana and $47,800 at separate bins at Ritchie Mini Storage.
The marijuana was wrapped in 10-pound bags -- each containing a magazine detailing the marijuana distribution business. The publication, which had the quote, "The Emperor Has No Clothes" spread across the top of the page, even had a price tag -- $17.95
Another 170 pounds of marijuana was seized at Sentry Self Storage in Pasadena -- all packaged in neatly labeled 16-pound bags. Seventy-five pounds were found in Storage Express in Glen Burnie, and 10 more pounds were found in Stack and Store, in Fallston in Harford County.
Police also raided seven homes, including ones in Baltimore, Annapolis and Bowie.
Lieutenant Collier said police got their first glimpse inside the organization, which has ties to three states besides Maryland and Mexico, in 1991. At that time, they raided the Davidsonville BTC home of William Bailey Jr., then 54, and seized a single marijuana cigarette and $96,000.
Further investigation led police to start an additional probe that began in January and include months of surveillance, watching drugs go from cars to storage bins.
"We followed them from the storage facilities to the pay phones to their homes," said Detective Michael Chandler, lead investigator in today's raids, who added that police got next to no information from sources or tips.
Police said they believe the people arrested today are the leaders of an organization that bought marijuana in Mexico, shipped it to Texas and then distributed it in Florida, North Carolina and Maryland.
Authorities said they were planning to investigate longer, but got information yesterday that a large shipment of marijuana had just come in and was about to be redistributed for street sale.
Most of the drugs seized were in the storage bins.
"We knew we were not going to find a lot of drugs in the houses," Lieutenant Collier said.
Police confiscated documents and other records at homes to link the owners to the drug ring. Police said records seized at the $500,000 Pasadena home will have to be reviewed by an auditor because they are so complex.
The spacious home, in the 1200 block of Villa Isle Court, had everything from cathedral ceilings to a pool-room with overhead lamps.
Assistant State's Attorney Trevor Kiessling, of Anne Arundel County's asset-forfeiture team, said the home was filled with expensive antiques, paintings and china. Police also were searching the family's three cars.
The owner of the home, whom police said they believe is one of the major players in the drug ring, and his wife and 17-year-old son were home when police barged through the doors at 5:30 a.m.
They offered no comment as police searched through their home for more than one hour and confiscated documents and financial statements and $10,000 in cash from a drawer.
"Just settle down, OK, just settle down," the man told his wife, who appeared stunned as she sat in a chair between her son and her husband, all handcuffed.
Police also arrested the owner's brother in a separate raid.
In an earlier raid at a cluttered, two-story home in the 900 block of Lombardi Circle, in Glen Burnie, police arrested a juvenile and the man they said was the operation's leader.
Raids at homes in Bowie, Baltimore and Annapolis produced additional arrests. Formal charges are expected to be filed later today.