A former East Baltimore pharmacy owner pleaded guilty Thursday to federal murder-for-hire charges for paying a hit man to kill a witness in a drug distribution case against him.
Licensed pharmacist David Robinson, 52, who owned the Frankford Family Pharmacy, had already pleaded guilty to dispensing painkillers. While awaiting sentencing in that case, he paid someone to carry out the murder of a witness.
As part of the investigation, a police source showed Robinson photos purporting to be of the dead victim.
“Joker’s got to go,” Robinson allegedly said prior to paying for the killing, according to the charges.
Robinson, who was expected to receive 51 months in prison for the drug case, was arrested for the murder-for-hire on the day of his sentencing. Instead, he will receive 10 years for the murder plot, which will be served consecutive to the sentence in the drug case, which has not been handed down.
The case is another example of the threats to the safety of witnesses in Baltimore. Federal prosecutors have brought cases in recent years that include a woman who was killed after being mistaken for a whistleblower in a health fraud case, as well as gang cases in which witnesses and cooperators were murdered. Instagram recently shut down a series of pages dedicated to exposing witnesses.
The initial drug investigation began four years ago. Prosecutors said a source told law enforcement that a pharmacist at Frankford Family Pharmacy was knowingly filling fraudulent prescriptions. Between January and July 2016, the source made controlled purchases from Robinson at the pharmacy, using blank prescriptions provided to the source by the DEA, prosecutors said.
After Robinson was arrested, someone told the DEA that he was continuing to order pills from his vendors and sell them, authorities said. It was that source who told law enforcement that, after his arrest, Robinson mentioned the name of someone he believed had cooperated with police.
Robinson provided information from the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website on the person he wanted killed, and got a picture of the person through a contact at the Motor Vehicle Administration, prosecutors alleged.
The source told investigators that they did not know anybody who could kill the person, but “saw a chance to make some money from Robinson” by stringing him along and claiming to know someone who could do the job for $10,000 — half up front and half after the killing. The source said $5,000 was deposited into an account.
On Thursday, Robinson’s attorney, Gary Proctor, said Robinson disputed that he paid cash, but rather forgave a $5,000 debt. Still, he acknowledged that the discrepancy did not affect the case.
Robinson regularly questioned the person about the progress in carrying out the killing, with the person making excuses and saying they were having trouble locating the target.
In February 2019, just days before his drug sentencing, Robinson was told the murder had been carried out and he would need to supply the rest of the hit man’s fee. Robinson asked for proof, and was shown images “mocked up to appear to show” the person dead, authorities wrote in court papers. He was arrested after the meeting concluded.