Philadelphia police officer Eric Snell has been arrested on federal drug charges and accused of conspiring with a Baltimore detective to sell cocaine and heroin seized from Baltimore's streets. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
The federal corruption case into an elite Baltimore police unit has spread beyond the city as authorities arrested a Philadelphia officer Tuesday and charged him with helping distribute drugs stolen by rogue local cops.
Eric Troy Snell, 33, of Philadelphia joins eight Baltimore police officers already indicted in the growing scandal that has brought down the city’s once-celebrated gun unit.
The Philadelphia Police Department will suspend Snell as the case proceeds, a police spokesman there said.
Online court records did not list an attorney for Snell. He is scheduled to appear Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
Snell has been a Philadelphia officer for three years. He previously served as a Baltimore police officer, from July 2005 to March 2008. A police spokesman declined to comment, noting that Snell left the city nine years ago.
Last month, Rayam became the third Baltimore officer to plead guilty to federal racketeering charges. With his plea, Rayam admitted to robbing people he encountered on the streets, billing the city for overtime hours he didn’t work, and forging reports to cover his tracks.
Further, he admitted to helping a Baltimore drug dealer rob a rival. Rayam told a federal jury last month that he was surprised when he broke into his victim’s apartment and found a woman in bed.
“I pulled out my gun to startle her,” Rayam told the court. “I was trying to scare her. … I could have even said, ‘I’ll kill you.’ ”
Rayam and his fellow robbers made off with $12,000, a Rolex watch, a gold necklace, a handgun and 800 grams of heroin.
The eight officers in the elite Gun Trace Task Force carried out a campaign of robbery and extortion stretching back at least three years and often targeting suspected drug dealers, prosecutors say. The officers allegedly pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars they discovered while searching the homes and cars of criminals and some innocent civilians, too.
Four detectives — Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Maurice Ward and Rayam — have pleaded guilty to the federal racketeering charges. They are jailed and await sentencing next year.
Four other officers — Sgts. Thomas Allers and Wayne Jenkins and Detectives Marcus Taylor and Daniel Hersl — are fighting the charges. They too remain jailed, pending their trials, which are scheduled to begin in January.
Some of them are accused of overtime fraud. Jenkins filed for overtime while on vacation with his family in Myrtle Beach, S.C., prosecutors said. Taylor is accused of filing for overtime while vacationing in New York City and the Dominican Republic.
In fiscal year 2016, Jenkins earned a salary of about $85,400 plus $83,300 in overtime, prosecutors say. They say Taylor earned a salary of nearly $66,800 plus $56,200 in overtime pay.
The indictments led Mayor Catherine Pugh to order an audit of police overtime costs. The audit is expected to be finished by the end of next year, her spokesman said.
The scandal led Police Commissioner Kevin Davis to disband the gun unit and end plainclothes policing in Baltimore, saying it encouraged officers to cut corners.
More than two months after seven Baltimore police officers were indicted on federal racketeering charges, the implications are still coming into focus, as local prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges continue to slog through hundreds of criminal cases now deemed "tainted" by the involvement of the once-touted gun enforcement unit.
City prosecutors, meanwhile, say they have been forced to drop criminal charges against more than 100 people whose cases hinged on the word of the officers.
Since the officers were taken off the streets earlier this year, gun arrests have plunged by 25 percent compared to last year. And gun violence continues to grip the city, with more than 300 killings in 2017.
Snell’s alleged role began in October 2016, prosecutors say, after Rayam recovered 9 ounces of cocaine tossed from a car during a chase near Mondawmin Mall.
Rayam’s supervisor, Jenkins, told him to sell the drugs, prosecutors wrote. So Rayam drove to Philadelphia and gave the drugs to Snell, prosecutors wrote.
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Days later, they wrote, Rayam returned to Philadelphia to have Snell distribute 80 grams of heroin the unit had recovered. Snell paid them thousands of dollars from the sales of the drugs, prosecutors wrote.
Rayam was arrested months later in June 2017. He called Snell from jail, urging the Philadelphia police officer to stay silent, prosecutors wrote.
“Your brother never said anything … everything cool, yo?” Rayam asked on a recorded phone call.
Snell insisted his brother had not snitched, prosecutors wrote. Then he told Rayam to “stand tall,” saying he would watch out for Rayam’s children, prosecutors wrote.
Rayam took those words as a subtle threat against his children if he gave investigators information on Snell, they wrote.