BROOKLYN, N.Y. — BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- David Gregory was leader of the vicious Double Seal drug gang that, until early this year, dominated the heroin trade in the southern Baltimore neighborhoods of Cherry Hill and Westport, federal officials say.
Baltimore homicide detectives suspect that he also may be a killer. But to a number of teen-agers both in Baltimore and in the Caribbean enclave of East Flatbush in Brooklyn, he was a modern-day Fagin.
"David Gregory saw himself as a godfather," says Essam Rabadi, an agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "He never thought he would be caught. And he never thought we would learn so much about him."
Much like the man in Dickens' "Oliver Twist" who teaches young boys how to steal, Gregory, 36, and his 21-year-old protege, Audley Facey, recruited youths to commit crimes that would enrich themselves. Their specialty was the "jux," the street name for a jewelry store robbery.
And Gregory had a method for making his boys hard to catch.
He found Baltimore teen-agers to do jewelry store robberies in Brooklyn. And he used Brooklyn youths, who gathered on the corner of East 38th Street and Church Avenue here, for the thefts in Baltimore. For nearly two years, the tactic stumped robbery detectives, who could never find anyone who recognized the young robbers because they came from out of town.
"Many of these kids were only 15 or 16, and some did not have criminal records," said Lisa Klem, an assistant U.S. attorney here. "They were told they could make money by doing the robberies. Gregory saw it as a way to make money and get 22TC large percentage of what was stolen at low risk."
But a bit of bad luck involving a 9 mm Ruger handgun abandoned in Brooklyn in 1995 finally caught up to Gregory. He was arrested in January, and convicted by a federal jury in New York last month on conspiracy, robbery and weapons charges stemming from jewelry store robberies in both cities. He is likely to be sentenced in the fall.
By then, Gregory could face drug or even murder charges stemming from his alleged role as leader of the Double Seal Boys.
The gang was known for double-packaging the heroin they shipped -- often inside the pants of teen-age girls -- from Brooklyn to "The Light," the name they gave to the open-air drug market near the Cherry Hill Shopping Center. "The double seal was their trademark," says Western District Baltimore police Sgt. Tony Gingles.
Through his attorney, Pamela Metzger, Gregory denied involvement in the jewelry robbery ring and said he would appeal for a new trial.
Metzger said any intimations that he was a drug dealer result from a 1994 federal investigation, which ended without her client's being charged. Metzger also pointed out that other gang members had testified against Gregory in efforts to get their sentences reduced, and that some members may be trying to exact revenge on Gregory for serving as an informant to the Baltimore police. "This case is far from over," she said.
"We believe he was a very manipulative guy," says Rabadi, who worked with New York Detective Michael Migliaro on the case. "He took advantage of lots of kids in Baltimore and Brooklyn, and let them do his dirty work."
Prosecutors say Gregory's case demonstrates how Baltimore has become a "safe haven" for drug dealers and thieves seeking to avoid detection from New York's reinvigorated police department.
A Haitian immigrant, Gregory grew up in New York City. But as a young adult, he became involved in the drug trade and developed a rap sheet that included convictions on burglary and firearms charges, according to federal authorities.
Gregory told police that he left New York in the early 1990s because he was a drug dealer and because police there knew him too well. He moved to Baltimore, eventually settling into a house on McDowell Lane, in Baltimore Highlands.
"New York detectives are real detectives," Gregory would later tell Baltimore police. "People leave New York to get away from New York detectives."
Adds Klem, the assistant U.S. attorney: "Baltimore was definitely a safe haven for Gregory, and his business."
The combination of Gregory's Brooklyn connections and his Baltimore residence helped make him a key player in the drug trade. Brooklyn has been a major supplier for Baltimore dealers since the rise of the crack cocaine trade in the mid-1980s. And Baltimore is an appealing market for New York dealers because the policing is considered more lax and the street price of heroin is higher than what is typically charged in New York City.
"There's always been a lot of traffic going down from New York City to Baltimore," Rabadi says. "The markup outside New York was significant." The jewelry ring was a valuable sideline to Gregory's drug operation, prosecutors say.
Facey was his prime recruiter, flashing money, jewelry and nice cars at prospective teen-age accomplices, documents say. The pitch brought in gang members with names like Seds, Props, Andre and a valuable 16-year-old shooter named Royston.
Gregory's role was to supervise; he helped plan escape routes, approve locations and provide supplies such as hammers and guns, authorities say. At first, the operation went well.
During the summer of 1994, the teen-agers hit at least five jewelry stores in Brooklyn and Queens, according to documents. The next summer, they began again, robbing several stores as well as a Brooklyn dentist's office.
But an October 1995 robbery at Fifth Avenue Jewelry in Brooklyn went wrong. When the owner pulled a gun, one of the four teen-agers shot him in the neck, paralyzing him. The robbers got away with $200,000 in jewelry, but they heard sirens and, in a panic, left the weapon -- the 9 mm Ruger -- in their getaway car after they abandoned it.
Gregory was incensed by the mistake. The gun could be traced to him through a McDonald's manager in Baltimore who had sold him the weapon. Prosecutors say he contacted Baltimore police and offered to become an informant in an effort to shield himself from future prosecution.
He also opposed Facey's newest plan: to rob Metro Broker at 4 N. Eutaw St. in downtown Baltimore.
The gang went ahead anyway. Their first attempt was foiled by the crew of TV's "Homicide: Life On the Street," which had picked the same day to film a murder scene in front of Metro Broker.
As Facey planned a second attempt, Baltimore police investigated anonymous tips about a possible robbery at Metro. A stakeout was set up, but the day it ended, the gang struck, making off with $40,000 in jewelry.
But the police had traced the gun left behind in Brooklyn and a video camera caught one of the robbers at Metro.
So far, 12 men involved with the jewelry ring have been arrested in Brooklyn and Baltimore. Seven pleaded guilty; four, including Gregory, were convicted at last month's trial.
But federal and local authorities are "actively investigating" Double Seal's ties to the drug trade in other cities, authorities say.
And Gregory's alleged role in homicides also is under scrutiny. He sent authorities a letter earlier this year asking for leniency in the jewelry case in exchange for information that could clear 14 unsolved murders in Baltimore, says Homicide Detective Oscar Requer. But Requer says Gregory seemed to know too much about at least one murder.
The letter described in detail a November 1992 slaying in Cherry Hill. "He knew how many gunshots, how many wounds, details you wouldn't have known if you weren't involved," says Requer.
Pub Date: 7/22/97