Two men staying at an Inner Harbor hotel have been arrested and charged with possessing and intending to distribute heroin worth an estimated $15 million, Baltimore police said yesterday.
A weekend surveillance operation led to the arrests Sunday of Hifon Smith, 32, of Owings Mills and Aaron Kairy, 26, of Baltimore as they were driving out of the garage of the Inner Harbor Marriott, police said.
After searching their hotel room, suitcases and vehicle, authorities seized a handgun and 3 kilos of the purest heroin available in the street-drug trade, said Anthony J. Romano, chief of the department's organized crime division.
The heroin seized was in the form of pellets, commonly smuggled into the United States from South America by couriers known as "mules."
Smith and Kairy were charged with federal heroin distribution charges, police said.
Romano said the men are suspected of being "midlevel" traffickers in a larger ring that is probably based in New York. He said drug dealers often transact business in hotels, where they have the advantage of being able to use suitcases to conceal large amounts of narcotics.
"Hotels are safe places for [these] people to go, because suitcases are not unusual" there, Romano said.
He credited a recent street patrol drug arrest as the catalyst for the heroin seizure and arrests.
"We developed the first arrest up the line, and that allowed us to go after midlevel people," Romano said. "It sends a clear message that we are a team."
Federal law enforcement authorities also participated in the weekend operation, he said.