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A federal strike force nabs alleged Baltimore area drug ‘wholesalers,’ seizes hundreds of thousands in cash

Four kilograms of the powerful opioid fentanyl along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash were among evidence seized in an investigation federal, state and local authorities say led them to indict 11 people, most charged as wholesale-level drug suppliers in the Baltimore region.

An array of top law enforcement officials gathered Tuesday in a warehouse on the outskirts of downtown Baltimore, in the new offices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, where they touted the case as an example of authorities working together to go after high-level drug traffickers.

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A search warrant executed at a Harbor East luxury apartment building yielded $550,000 alone, and 10 kilograms of cocaine were seized in addition to six firearms. Raids took place in the city, Baltimore County and Washington, D.C.

Those charged “were responsible for supplying a vast number of drug shops across the city, and fueling addiction and violence across the Baltimore metropolitan area,” said Orville O. Greene, the special agent in charge of Baltimore’s DEA office and who commands the strike force. “Taking these prolific criminals off of our streets is a step toward making Baltimore a safer place.”

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One of the defendants is alleging misconduct. Thomas “Pooda” Jones, 52, was previously set free from a federal prison sentence after alleging hundreds of thousands of dollars were taken by corrupt Baltimore Police officers connected to the Gun Trace Task Force scandal.

He’s now alleging money was taken again.

Jones pleaded guilty to federal drug crimes in 2015 and received 10 years in prison. But he was released after serving just four years of that sentence, after federal investigators in the Gun Trace Task Force scandal learned money had been taken from him during his arrest.

Jones told The Baltimore Sun two years ago that while Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and other officers reported seizing $650,000 from him in 2014, an additional $300,000 was not reported. Another officer involved in the case, Matthew Ryckman, admitted misconduct, including taking money, to the FBI. He has not been charged but resigned from the ATF, where he had become a special agent after leaving Baltimore.

Jones is alleging that money has gone unreported again in the current investigation. Authorities say they seized about $20,000 from him during a raid in April — Jones says he had $40,000, according to his defense attorney, Tony Garcia.

“The amount of money recovered doesn’t match the amount that was in there,” Garcia said. “He was a victim of the Gun Trace Task Force, and the concern is we don’t know if this is some sort of retaliation.”

Spokespeople for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA declined to comment on the allegation.

Jones has been in state custody since April, after members of the strike force raided a home in the 1600 block of Edmondson Avenue. Officers, who because they are part of a federal task force were not wearing body cameras, said in charging documents that they found money and drugs in an apartment, and a handgun and more drugs in a basement that Jones had keys to.

In state charging documents, police wrote that the amount of cash seized was “unknown”; the federal indictment says $19,965 was seized at the home.

Garcia says that Jones, who property records show owns the building, was doing rehab work on an apartment, and that other residents of the building also had keys to the basement.

Jones is not the only one of the defendants who has done federal time — three others have previous convictions, said Greene, of the DEA.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner said while not all of the defendants are wholesale suppliers, all “are alleged to be significant players in the narcotics trade.”

“Most of these defendants sold bulk quantities of illegal narcotics to other drug dealers in Baltimore; the narcotics were then resold and made their way through the distribution chain until they were eventually sold to customers on the streets.”

The strike force was created in 2019, and previously was credited with taking down 25 members of an East Baltimore drug crew. No one in that case was charged in connection to any street violence; nor is anyone in Tuesday’s case accused of violence.

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