Two Baltimore detectives plead guilty to racketeering charges, face up to nine years in prison
Baltimore Police Detectives Evodio Hendrix and Maurice Ward admitted Friday that they robbed people in custody, billed for overtime hours they didn't work and forged reports to cover their tracks — all part of a conspiracy stretching back at least to March 2015.
The two veteran officers pleaded guilty to racketeering during separate hearings in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. They face seven to nine years in prison under sentencing guidelines, though the judge could choose to impose the maximum 20 years.
Both men will be sentenced in February.
Prosecutors detailed the extent of the conspiracy, saying the detectives robbed people they encountered on the streets, broke into the home of one man to steal $20,000 each, and while vacationing billed the department for overtime.
"Is it true?" U.S. District Court Judge James Bredar asked.
The 36-year-old Ward, of Middle River, came next before the judge.
"If we had a trial on this case, Mr. Ward, could the government prove those facts?" the judge asked.
"Yes," Ward answered.
The detectives initially pleaded not guilty when they were indicted in February along with the five other members of the Police Department's Gun Trace Task Force — the entirety of the unit. The elite plainclothes task force was deployed to interrupt Baltimore's illegal gun trade.
Fallout continues from the indictment. Prosecutors have dropped criminal charges against dozens of people whose cases hinged on the word of the seven accused officers. The indictments also led Police Commissioner Kevin Davis to end plainclothes policing in Baltimore, saying the style encouraged officers to cut corners.
Ward resigned from the department in April; Hendrix resigned in June. A spokesman for the Police Department declined to comment Friday. The police union did not return messages seeking comment.
Federal marshals escorted Hendrix into the courtroom Friday and unlocked handcuffs around his wrists. He wore a gray jumpsuit with "HCDC" stamped on the back. He has been detained without bail in a Howard County detention center.
During the 45-minute hearing, he spoke little, answering the judge with "Yes, sir."
Later, the marshals led Ward into the courtroom and removed his handcuffs. He wore jeans and a black hooded sweatshirt, and stood with his hands clasped behind his back.
With their brief answers, however, both men admitted to a pattern of robbery and overtime fraud.
The officers stopped a suspected drug dealer in March of last year, seized drugs and cash from him but also his house key. While the man was arrested, they went into his home and stole $200,000 from his safe and a $4,000 Breitling wristwatch. Hendrix and Ward each walked away with about $20,000, they admitted in court.
Three months later, Hendrix and Ward searched a home and stole $2,000 from a shoebox in the bedroom and $15,000 hidden inside a boot without reporting the money.
In August, they stole $1,700 from a man during a traffic stop and shared the money without reporting it.
The entire task force carried out a scheme to defraud the Police Department for overtime hours they didn't work, said Leo Wise, the federal prosecutor. When someone on the task force made an arrest, all the members would claim they helped, even if they were off duty.
"This degree of coordination was necessary in order to conceal from the BPD the overbilling," Wise told the court.
In July 2016, Hendrix and Ward submitted for overtime claiming they worked 12 hours overnight. Both men admitted Friday to being home at the time.
Ward submitted for overtime while on vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C.. Both Ward and Hendrix were paid for working shifts while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.
Ward earned a salary of nearly $73,000 and made an additional $62,000 in overtime during the 2016 fiscal year, according to court records. Hendrix earned a salary of about $69,400 and made about $52,000 in overtime during the same period.
Friday brought the first hearings for the indicted officers to change their pleas.
The others indicted are Wayne Jenkins, 37; Daniel Hersl, 48; Marcus Taylor, 30; Momodu Gondo, 34; and Jemell Rayam, 36. All pleaded not guilty, but Gondo and Rayam are due back in court in the fall for rearraignment hearings and are expected to change their pleas.
Jenkins, Hersl and Taylor have trials scheduled for January. The three face additional robbery charges and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
All seven were ordered held until trial after judges decided they were a risk to public safety.
Two civilians have also been indicted in connection with the case, charged with impersonating police officers to commit an armed robbery while a detective from the gun unit served as a lookout. Thomas Finnegan, 38, of Easton, Pa., and David Rahim, 41, of Baltimore, are charged with conspiracy and robbery. Both men were ordered held until trial.
Ward left the courtroom in handcuffs, speaking to no one.
Hendrix's wife arrived at the end of his hearing; he called out to her.
They have been married 12 years with five young children at home, she said. She declined to say more.
"I love you," Hendrix called out, as the marshals led him away.