Police spokesman T.J. Smith discusses the police raid on a liquor store near Lexington Market. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun video)
Baltimore Police arrested seven people during a drug raid on a liquor store near Lexington Market on Monday, including the husband and wife who own the store and four of their employees, police said Tuesday.
Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said Eutaw Liquors, in the 100 block of N. Eutaw St., was being operated as a front for a drug operation that sold “all kinds of narcotics,” from crack cocaine and marijuana to prescription drugs like suboxone, which is used to treat opioid addiction.
“It’s our priority to have thriving businesses here in Baltimore, but we cannot and we will not have businesses that are complicit and businesses that want to harbor drugs and harbor those folks who want to facilitate the process of selling drugs in our community,” De Sousa said.
The store is just across the street from the market’s large front entrance signage, which reads, “World Famous Lexington Market Since 1782.”
Found in plain view in an area of the store only accessible to employees were 56 ziplock bags of suspected marijuana, 24 blue-top vials of suspected crack cocaine, 16 more bags of crack, $12,000 in cash, a digital scale, razors, a drug packaging device and a shotgun — “all indicative of drug sales,” said police spokesman T.J. Smith.
Store owners Seung Ryu, 51, and his wife, Ae Kim, 45, both of the 6400 block of Sundown Terrace in Columbia, each were charged with illegal possession of a gun in relation to a drug trafficking crime, as well as multiple other drug charges, police said.
The shotgun was legally registered to Ryu, but deemed illegal in the context of the broader drug operation, police said.
The couple did not have attorneys listed in court records Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. They were each ordered held without bail during hearings Tuesday.
Also arrested on gun and drug charges were employees Darnell Mackall, 40; Jorge Delvalle, 47; Antoine Barnes, 57; and Shawnell Batts, 36. All four are felons precluded from having a firearm, according to court records. All four were being held, none had attorneys listed, and none could be reached.
In addition, police arrested another man in the store at the time, 55-year-old Charles Green, on a drug possession charge, police said. Green, who was released on his own recognizance pending trial, also did not have an attorney listed and could not be reached. Police said he turned down an offer for placement in a law enforcement-assisted drug diversion program available to individuals charged with drug possession in the area.
De Sousa said foot patrol officers deployed to the area as part of a special drug initiative outlined were tipped off to drug dealing out of the store by community members, which they then confirmed by sending a confidential informant into the store to make drug purchases.
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Prosecutors have dropped all charges against two men arrested in the raid of an Old Goucher corner store last month after lab tests determined 29 pounds of suspected fentanyl and morphine that police seized from the store were not illicit drugs after all, the state’s attorney’s office confirmed.
“If there’s businesses that choose to operate outside of the law, we’re going to come after them,” De Sousa said.
The area around Lexington Market has long suffered from open air drug sales, though police said they did not believe the drug organization that was operating out of the liquor store provided to street sellers. They said they believed shipments of drugs were delivered to the store daily, or multiple times per week, and then sold out of the store itself.
De Sousa called the area “challenged,” and said the Eutaw Liquors operation was part of the problem.
Deputy Commissioner Gary Tuggle, a former top-ranking Drug Enforcement Administration official who De Sousa tapped to join the police department earlier this month, said the fact that the owners were using a legitimate business “to cover their illegal activity” made them a top priority for the police department.
“The preponderance of the evidence shows that they were using this business to cover their illegal activity,” Tuggle said. “The situations that we detect like that, we’re going to be very, very aggressive in pursuing, because these are the types of illegal businesses that give good businesses in this city a bad, bad name.”