Maryland Transportation Authority Police officers unveiled a 2003 GMC van yesterday that they say allowed six men to stow more than $350,000 in cash along with trace amounts of drugs in hide-away, hydraulically operated compartments.
One nook lay inside the van's front center console and rose about 12 inches to reveal a secret cubby. The other compartment was in the van's passenger-side rear wall. Both compartments were reinforced with steel, said Chief Gary W. McLhinney.
The van, which began its trip in Florida, was headed to New York with the cash to purchase large quantities of drugs, McLhinney said. On Wednesday morning, a Transportation Authority officer spotted the van driving along Interstate 95, speeding and swerving in and out of lanes.
The officer stopped the van, and his suspicion was piqued when he received conflicting answers from the men in the van, said McLhinney, who declined to identify the arresting officer, pointing to safety concerns.
The officer then went back to his cruiser and brought out his dog to check the car. McLhinney said the dog alerted the officer to the back of the van, and a search revealed the cash.
McLhinney said the I-95 corridor remains popular for drug dealers transporting drugs and money - though his agency rarely gets the opportunity to make arrests with such large amounts of cash.
"Word will pass very quickly that this is not a place to bring that type of activity," McLhinney said.
Police say the van stored $363,000 in cash, three semiautomatic handguns and small amounts of Ecstasy and marijuana. The black van was outfitted with tinted windows and sand-colored window shades, a satellite phone capable of operating in areas with weak cell phone reception, a plasma-screen television and a DVD player, McLhinney said.
The suspects were identified as: Jerry J. Felton, 36, Robert L. Flood, 35, and Johnny G. Staten, 21, all from Georgia; Antwon Black, 23, of Florida; and Theon P. Clark, 33, and Tamiel D. Goldenclark, 24, both of California.
All six have been charged with possession of marijuana and Ecstasy, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, transporting a firearm in a vehicle and possession of a stolen firearm. They are being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center on $1 million bail each, McLhinney said.