A 38-year-old Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to committing an armed home invasion to help a corrupt Baltimore police detective steal $20,000.
Thomas Robert Finnegan, who is not a police officer, admitted that he donned a “police” tactical vest, broke into the home and held a gun to the homeowner after being recruited into the plot by Detective Jemelle Rayam.
Rayam, a former member of the Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force, has pleaded guilty to racketeering and has admitted to 15 robberies, including at least one other home invasion.
Testifying at a drug trial this fall, Rayam said he preferred to enter homes using search warrants obtained under false pretenses, because it was “less stressful” and “it was my word against theirs.”
Later the men hurried from her South Baltimore home with $20,000 in cash she had borrowed to payoff her taxes, leaving the Morrell Park woman another victim in a long-running robbery scheme allegedly orchestrated by detectives in an elite unit of the Baltimore police.
Rayam’s unit had raided a pigeon store in South Baltimore’s Brooklyn neighborhood on June 27, 2014, and saw cash in the pocketbook of the store owner, who intended to use the money to pay off a tax debt.
Rayam moved to steal the money during the search, but another officer stopped him, wary that the victims would report the theft to the Police Department.
Prosecutors said Rayam then used a police database to find the home of the pigeon store owners. They said Rayam brought Finnegan and another man, David Kendall Rahim, in on the plot, supplying them with tactical gear.
At the home, Finnegan and Rahim disabled a security camera system, and Rayam remained in a car outside the home to intercede if any other police officers arrived at the location.
Finnegan pleaded guilty to one count of robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. He faces up to 20 years in prison for the robbery charge and up to life in prison for the firearm charge. His sentencing has been set for March 9.
David Kendall Rahim, of Baltimore, admitted that he donned tactical gear and carried out the robbery at the direction of Det. Jemell Rayam, who himself pleaded guilty to committing a string of robberies over a number of years.
Finnegan is the seventh person to plead guilty in the federal racketeering case.
Five of them were members of the department’s Gun Trace Task Force.
Finnegan was set to contest the charges at a trial scheduled for next week. Last month, his defense attorney Richard Bardos acknowledged in a court filing that “this case is not complicated by any means.”
He said evidence included a video of Finnegan approaching the victim’s house right before the robbery. During a three-hour trip from his home in Pennsylvania to Baltimore after his arrest, Finnegan also admitted to participating in the robbery, his lawyer wrote.