Prince George's educator arrested in U.S. drug case

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Prince George's County schools administrator who previously worked in the Baltimore school system has been named in a federal indictment issued against suspected members of a large drug ring based in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

Pamela Yvette Hoffler-Riddick, a regional superintendent in Prince George's, was one of 31 people charged in a 324-count indictment unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Va., said court spokeswoman Deanna Warren.

According to court documents, the ring, uncovered by a regional narcotics task force working with federal agents, has distributed more than $20 million worth of cocaine and marijuana since September 1996, the Hampton Roads Daily Press reported yesterday.

The ring handled at least 10,000 pounds of marijuana, 300 kilograms of cocaine and 20 kilograms of crack cocaine, court papers state.

Hoffler-Riddick, 43, was arrested Monday and extradited to Norfolk, the Daily Press reported. One of 10 women named in the indictment, she is accused of depositing large amounts of drug money into banks and credit unions, according to the indictment.

Warren said the bust was notable for the scale of the alleged trafficking, and for the alleged role of a school administrator and what she described as other "white-collar" defendants.

"This is different in the fact that we do have professionals involved," she said.

A phone message left last night at Hoffler-Riddick's Rockville home was not returned.

Prince George's schools spokesman John White said yesterday that Hoffler-Riddick has been placed on administrative leave; she will be paid through the length of her accumulated vacation time.

"We're surprised, and certainly trying to be supportive until this investigation runs its course," White said.

White said that Hoffler-Riddick passed a criminal background check when she was hired by Prince George's school chief Andre J. Hornsby in September 2003, three months after he took control of the school system.

White noted that she passed background checks in four other districts that employed her during the time of the alleged criminal activities.

Her Prince George's job, which pays $120,120 per year, is to oversee one of the school district's five regions, comprising 36 schools in the west-central part of the county.

Hoffler-Riddick worked for a year as executive director of intervention services for the Baltimore school system, from August 2002 to July 2003.

A city schools spokeswoman said yesterday that she did not know whether Hoffler-Riddick resigned or was laid off.

Before that, Hoffler-Riddick worked for more than two years in the Montgomery County school system, primarily as director of the county's office of shared accountability.

A Montgomery schools spokesman declined to say yesterday why she left the district in June 2002.

Hoffler-Riddick launched her career in the Hampton Roads area in the 1980s, working as an administrator in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. She won Norfolk's Public Service Award in 1997.

White, the Prince George's spokesman, said he did not know how the county came to select Hoffler-Riddick in 2003.

"She had a very good resume," he said.

The indictment naming Hoffler-Riddick occurs as the Prince George's schools already are fighting bad publicity stemming from investigations into Hornsby's dealings with education vendors, including his approval of a $1 million purchase from a company that employed his girlfriend.

According to court papers, drug shipments were made via tractor-trailer from Texas, and some proceeds were laundered through a construction firm set up in Newport News, Va.

Arrests began Monday in Virginia, Charlotte, N.C., Baltimore, Houston, Dallas, Indianapolis and Lexington, Ky. Warren, the court spokeswoman, said she did not know how many people had been taken into custody so far.

Four defendants are charged as kingpins, or with operating a criminal enterprise. Other charges range from conspiracy to import marijuana and cocaine, money laundering and distribution of narcotics.

Sun staff writer Laura Loh contributed to this article.

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