In one of the largest drug cases in Maryland history, a South Florida man who conspired to move more than a ton of cocaine worth $25 million through Baltimore was convicted of drug-conspiracy charges in federal court yesterday.
After several hours of deliberations over two days, jurors found Luis Francisco Alba, 49, of Miami guilty of conspiring to distribute cocaine from South America in steel chemical drums to the Dundalk Marine Terminal and then a warehouse in East Baltimore.
Alba faces a minimum 10-year prison term and a maximum of life without parole when he is sentenced Oct. 17 by U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin.
Of the five men indicted in the case this year, Alba was first to take his case before a jury.
Two of the accused remain at large. Alba's son, Oscar Orlando Alba, 29, also of Miami, and nephew, Jose Orozco-Alba, 30, of Queens, N.Y., pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution. They are to be sentenced in September, and face less time in prison because they cooperated with prosecutor Richard Kay and federal agents.
"It was one of the largest cocaine seizures in Maryland history," said P. Jeffrey Casey, special agent in charge of the U.S. Customs Service in Maryland, which investigated the case with the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and Baltimore police.
The case began with a tip from an area resident about unusual activity at the Chemical Treatment Inc. warehouse on Moravia Park Drive in Baltimore. Federal agents staked out the warehouse, setting up cameras inside, combing through trash containers outside, and tailing cars driven by the suspects through six states, court records show.
Federal agents watched workers transport trash from the warehouse to a suspect's apartment in Towson, where it was dumped outside -- including paperwork showing that Chemical Treatment planned to export cylinders filled with chlorine gas to Venezuela and have the drums returned, according to the court records.
On Jan. 15, customs agents in Galveston, Texas, found 13 cylinders that had been shipped from Venezuela through Puerto Rico to Houston. Agents drilled a hole in one of the drums and found cocaine, records show.
They resealed the drum and tracked the shipment.
On Jan. 27, a truck from Houston arrived in Baltimore. Agents watched as workers unloaded the cylinders and stacked them on the floor of the warehouse.
On Feb. 18, an informant told investigators that a Colombian man was making plans to send several men from New York and New Jersey to the warehouse "to pick up a thousand kilograms of drugs contained in large pipes," according to the court records.
Eight days later, an undercover federal agent posing as a trucker willing to transport illegal loads met with three suspects at the Vince Lombardi rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Pub Date: 8/08/97