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Ex-leader of drug ring sentenced to 10 years


The former co-leader of a violent Baltimore drug ring who turned government witness against his criminal cohorts as part of a plea bargain was given a 10-year federal sentence yesterday for racketeering.

In court, Louis W. Colvin, 44, apologized to U.S. Judge J. Frederick Motz, saying, "I know I've hurt a lot of people in the past, and I accept responsibility for that."

After imposing the sentence, Motz told Colvin that he "appreciated" his assistance to prosecutors in a racketeering case involving a violent drug ring and in helping authorities clear unrelated cases, including a Baltimore County homicide.

Colvin pleaded guilty last year to one count of racketeering and avoided a jury trial.

Other charges -- including witness tampering, fraud and arson -- were set aside in exchange for Colvin's testimony against his longtime crime partners, including the other co-leader of the drug operation, James E. Gross Sr. Gross, who was sentenced in July to 50 years in prison, and four other men were convicted for their various roles in the drug-selling organization.

Federal prosecutors tried Gross and the others under the Racketeer Influenced, Corrupt Organizations laws, which are not often used in Maryland for street-drug cases.

Colvin and Gross, both of Abingdon, started a drug-dealing organization in the late 1990s, not long after they left prison after serving nearly a decade for drug and gun charges from 1990, when they were arrested together.

They ran several nightclubs and bars that served as fronts for their drug operations, authorities said.

But when one of those clubs, Strawberry's 5000 in Rosedale, burned down Jan. 27, 2001, in a fire that was ruled an arson, law enforcement officials quickly began to uncover the drug ring.

Colvin later admitted to a role in the fire, and Gross was convicted of the arson, which was set as part of an insurance fraud scheme.

At the time of the arson, Colvin and Gross had been working as government informants. But Gross was dropped as an informant after he was arrested in the rape of a 12-year-old girl in Strawberry's.

Colvin continued to work for the government, and he and Gross split in a dispute over profits at their last club, Intellects.

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