An illegal drug operation run by three brothers and their two cousins sold an estimated $20,000 worth of heroin a day before federal prosecutors arrested eight members of the Southwest Baltimore organization on conspiracy charges, according to law enforcement officials and court documents unsealed yesterday.
Known as "Smackdown," the heroin organization was a family affair led by convicted drug dealer Calvin W. "Cuz" Matthews, III, court documents say. His two brothers and two cousins, prosecutors said, were among the eight arrested late last week.
"Our goal is to attack the entire leadership, from the top on down," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said.
All but one of the defendants - Donita Moore, 28 - were ordered to be held in custody after appearing in U.S. District Court on Friday and yesterday, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Moore was released on 24-hour-a-day home electronic monitoring, according to spokeswoman Marcia Murphy.
If convicted of conspiring to distribute a kilogram of heroin or more during the past two years, each defendant faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to life behind bars, officials said.
The joint local-federal investigation, officials said, started in 2003 as a city Police Department inquiry and blossomed in January.
The cooperation, according to city State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, demonstrated that her prosecutors were committed to "not just sitting, responding to street arrests," but assisting in large-scale investigations designed to dismantle narcotics gangs.
A team of federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents from Washington spent six months with other law enforcement officials signing up confidential informants, buying drugs with undercover agents and using wiretaps to record phone calls.
According to police and federal drug agents, the dealers operated in the city's shadows.
"The 'shops' include vacant residences, lightly traveled side streets, rear alleys, often referred to as 'holes,' and similarly desolate locations selected to avoid police detection," according to DEA special agent Bryan Silvestro.
Territory infiltrated by Smackdown, agents said, spread across five to eight city blocks, generally bounded by Baltimore Street to the north, Pratt Street to the south, South Gilmor Street to the west and South Arlington Avenue to the east.
After conducting eight searches, agents seized $100,000 in cash, three guns, two vehicles and 2 1/2 kilos of "high purity" heroin, with an estimated street resale value of more than $500,000, according to Rosenstein.