Authorities seize Laurel house in Md.'s first federal eviction


The first federal eviction notice in Maryland's history was served yesterday, as members of the state police, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. attorney's office seized a Laurel house worth $117,000 and all its contents, state police said.

The seizure culminated a five-year investigation by county and state police. Authorities launched the investigation after neighborhood residents complained that the house was a source of drug dealing.

A 1978 law gave federal officials the power to seize property linked to drug crimes, but yesterday's seizure marked the first time it has been used in Maryland, state police said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Klein Jr. approved the seizure on Wednesday. At 7 a.m. yesterday, approximately 25 law enforcement officials went to the home in the 8600 block of Mulberry St. with warrants for two of its occupants, Rita Sue Souder, 27, and Robert Edward Hawkins, 23.

Neither Ms. Souder nor Mr. Hawkins was home when the officers seized the house. The warrants charged them with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.

The authorities later discovered that Ms. Souder was in jail on a contempt charge at the time of the seizure. She was being held in lieu of $1,000 bail on the drug charge at the Prince George's County Detention Center, jail officials said last night.

Michael McKelvin, a state police spokesman, said Ms. Souder faces a maximum 20-year jail term and up to $25,000 in fines.

Mr. McKelvin said police were searching for Mr. Hawkins, who has also been charged with conspiracy.

A small amount of drug paraphernalia was recovered from the house, which state and federal officials expected, the state police spokesman said.

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