With a veteran Baltimore Police detective pleading guilty to federal corruption charges, a legal battle is under way between prosecutors and attorneys for a violent drug gang who say the officer’s corrupt past was kept secret from them.
Ivo Louvado, 47, admitted guilt on Friday to charges he lied to FBI agents pursuing leads in the fallout of the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal. In 2019, agents received corroborating information that Louvado had participated in a 2009 scheme to sell cocaine seized by his squad, which he denied during FBI questioning, according to court records.
But that information was never shared with attorneys defending Murdaland Mafia Piru Bloods gang members, who were convicted of racketeering in April 2019. In a filing for a new trial, their attorneys argue that Louvado was integral to the federal investigation, obtaining wiretaps and search warrants against their clients and testifying in a motions hearing.
In fact, he was already under investigation while the gang trial proceeded, the attorneys argue. They said that should have been disclosed to them, although he was not called as a witness during the trial.
The reputed leader of the gang, Dante Bailey, was sentenced to life in prison on racketeering charges after a jury found the group trafficked drugs and participated in murders. Two dozen other defendants were also convicted.
“At the times Louvado appeared before multiple judicial officers of this Court, he was a criminal,” defense attorneys for Bailey, Corloyd Anderson, Randy Banks, Shakeen Davis and Jamal Lockley said in a June motion for a new trial. “Louvado’s crimes and lies remained a secret to defendants until March 11, 2020, when the same office that prosecuted defendants filed a felony criminal charge alleging that Louvado made false statements to the FBI.”
Prosecutors filed their response completely under seal earlier this year, but this week made public a redacted version in which they say no new trial should be granted. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christina A. Hoffman and Laura Perry wrote that the investigation of Louvado was sensitive at the time, and that they did not have an obligation to disclose information about him because they had decided not to call him as a witness.
Louvado, of Bel Air, faces a maximum of five years in prison; a sentencing date was not set Friday.
Prosecutors also say that while Louvado was involved in various aspects of the investigation, federal agents and other officers corroborated his work.
“There is no question that Louvado engaged in serious misconduct for which he is justly being prosecuted. But nothing about that prosecution undermines confidence in the guilty verdicts in this case,” the federal prosecutors said. “The defendants are not entitled to a windfall because of past misconduct by one of hundreds of law enforcement officers who participated in the investigation where that misconduct has no relationship to the facts of the case and no bearing on their guilt or innocence.”
Louvado’s attorney, Brian J. Murphy, didn’t know about the petition by Bloods attorneys, but said, “We are in the middle of this thing and I can’t talk about anything.”
Defense attorneys for the gang members uncovered two prior incidents in which they said federal prosecutors should have already been on notice that Louvado had credibility issues. One was a 2009 case in which federal charges were dismissed against a man who said he had cell phone records proving he was eight miles away at a time when Louvado said he was conducting surveillance on him.
“Neither Detective Louvado nor his associates could possibly have made the critical observations they claim to have made of the defendant,” that man’s attorneys said at the time.
The arrest and prosecution of GTTF members, along with a slew of civil lawsuits against the city, led to the release of hundreds of pages of documents showing that for years Baltimore police officials brushed aside allegations of serious criminal action by members of the squad.
Louvado worked in 2008 and 2009 on a plainclothes drug squad with, among others, Wayne Jenkins. Jenkins would become the leader of the Gun Trace Task Force, and eventually pleaded guilty to charges including robbing people of cash and drugs as well as lying in court paperwork and stealing overtime pay. He is serving a 25-year federal prison sentence.
Federal investigators have since charged other officers, including Louvado, connected to a plot to steal three kilograms of drugs from a massive bust in 2009. Three officers allegedly concocted a plan to sell the stolen drugs to a confidential informant and split the profits. Louvado’s share was $10,000, according to court records.
This week’s filing by federal prosecutors in the Bloods case offers new insight into how the FBI case against Louvado developed. The filing indicates federal agents first got information about Louvado in July 2017, about five months after the Gun Trace Task Force indictment.
By then Jenkins had entered into an agreement with federal prosecutors on his guilty plea according to a letter written by then-Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Schenning. Several other officers also had reached plea deals and started talking to prosecutors by the time Louvado hit the FBI radar.
Louvado was first questioned by federal agents about the 2009 drug bust in May 2018 — nearly a year before the Bloods trial.
“Louvado did not take or receive any money and if he has seen Jenkins or anyone else take money, he would have put an immediate stop to it," federal investigators wrote in a report of the interview, according to court records.
Federal prosecutors wrote that they inquired with a supervisor about whether there was anything about Louvado that they would need to disclose in the Bloods case, but the office determined that there was not yet a “corroborated” claim against Louvado.
On April 9, 2019, roughly three weeks into the Bloods trial, the GTTF investigators received information that “changed the state of information concerning Louvado," according to the court filing.
“At that point, [investigators in the GTTF case] were considering covert investigative steps, including locating and interviewing a potential corroborating witness concerning the cocaine theft, as well as a potential plan to seize Louvado’s cellular phone,” prosecutors wrote in the recent motion.
It wasn’t until Jan. 6, 2020 that the U.S. Attorney’s Office opened its case against Louvado as a criminal target, prosecutors now say, and he was charged two months later.
“The government has never had any indication, whether in Louvado’s proffers, the GTTF investigation, or other investigations, that Louvado engaged in any misconduct during the [Bloods] investigation,” federal prosecutors say. “There also has never been any allegation by any of the defendants that Louvado engaged in any misconduct during the [Bloods] investigation.”
Defense attorneys say they could have argued to suppress key evidence in the case if they knew about Louvado’s credibility concerns; federal prosecutors rebut that, saying other officers backstop the evidence.
“Numerous other officers would have testified to the veracity of the statements in Louvado’s affidavits,” they say.
The Murdaland Mafia Pirus are a subset of the Bloods said to have controlled the drug trade in Northwest Baltimore and nearby areas in Baltimore County. Prosecutors said Bailey, the convicted leader, ordered and committed numerous murders in order to retaliate against rivals, impose discipline within the gang and eliminate potential witnesses. After he was arrested, they say, he continued to conduct the gang’s affairs from behind bars, ordering hits on rivals and witnesses.