Guilty plea to drug kingpin charges


A 26-year-old man pleaded guilty Friday to heading a Westminster cocaine and heroin ring, making him the first person in Carroll County to be convicted under Maryland's drug kingpin statute.

Brian Gill, also known as Christopher Jason Bowen, admitted supervising a drug operation out of 102 S. Center St. in which he cleared $10,000 a week in sales of crack cocaine.

Gill will be sentenced July 17 under the kingpin statute, which carries a minimum, mandatory 20-year sentence.

In the plea bargain, Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold agreed to impose a maximum sentence of 25 years, recommended by Carroll State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes. In return for Gill's plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss more than 90 other drug distribution and possession charges against the defendant at sentencing.

According to the kingpin statute, if a prosecutor can show that someone controlled, bought, sold or conspired to distribute more than 50 pounds of marijuana, 448 grams of cocaine, 50 grams of crack or 28 grams of opiates such as heroin, a judge must impose the minimum, mandatory 20-year sentence without the possibility of parole.

"The evidence was very strong," Mr. Barnes said of the state's case against Gill, who was one of about two dozen people arrested in an eight-week undercover investigation last fall.

Called "Operation Center Court," the probe involved state police; Westminster police; the FBI; the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and Carroll County's drug task force.

The undercover operation stopped three Westminster cocaine and heroin rings that may have had profits of more than $500,000 a year, police said after the November arrests.

According to a statement of facts read in court Friday by Mr. Barnes, Gill unknowningly described his drug operation in detail to an undercover state police officer Nov. 11. During the conversation, Gill said he made $10,000 a week selling crack cocaine and had eight people working for him.

Mr. Barnes said Gill told the undercover officer that the drug dealers he employed were addicts and that he would give them one bag of cocaine for every 20 bags they sold.

Gill offered to help the undercover officer stake out territory in Baltimore to deal heroin, the statement said, and told the officer that "it's easy money."

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