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Head of heroin ring that led authorities to Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force sentenced to 25 years

As a boss in a Baltimore drug crew, Antonio Shropshire took steps to evade arrest. He ditched a police tracker on his car and his crew rotated cellphones. When arrested, he tried another method: bribery.

Investigators say Shropshire offered them thousands of dollars of heroin and cocaine to sell and “buy something nice for their wives.”

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The bribe contributed to a 25-year prison sentence a federal judge handed him Friday.

“It was clearly an attempt to obstruct justice,” U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake told a courtroom crowded with his family.

Shropshire, 34, became the third man sentenced in a million-dollar drug ring in Northeast Baltimore. The crew sold heroin with impunity under the protection of a corrupt city police detective.

A long-running investigation into the drug ring uncovered the crooked cop, then exposed a rogue squad within the Baltimore Police Department, the Gun Trace Task Force. Eight officers subsequently convicted face decades in prison for robbing drug dealers and cheating on their overtime pay.

Detective Momodu Gondo admitted to running interference for Shropshire’s crew. Investigators say the drug ring emerged as the single-largest supplier of heroin to suburban Baltimore and Harford counties. In October, a jury convicted five men in the crew of conspiracy to sell heroin.

The convictions end a 10-day trial in federal court during which prosecutors anchored their case on accomplice testimony — the word of cops imprisoned for robbery, rival drug dealers and recovering heroin addicts.

Alexander “Munch” Campbell, 29, was sentenced to 15 years Friday. Omari “Lil’ Brill” Thomas, 25, was sentenced Thursday to six years. Two others await sentencing: Antoine Washington, 27, and Glen Kyle Wells, 25.

All were convicted after a 10-day trial that also depicted the scourge of heroin addiction.

One gram cost addicts about $120. Fourteen witnesses testified to buying heroin from the men. A widow who cleaned houses broke down in court, telling how she spent her husband’s death payments on heroin. A gymnast told how she turned to heroin after taking pain pills for an injury.

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The trial proceeded with claims of witness intimidation. One man received a call from a blocked number and the warning, “Testify and die.” But one after another told how prescription painkillers such as Percocet and Oxycontin plunged them into addiction.

“Heroin destroys people’s families,” Blake told the courtroom Friday. “This is an extremely serious offense.”

Investigators say more than 60 people overdosed and 15 of them died from heroin tracing back to Shropshire’s crew of drug dealers who operated around The Alameda.

“Mr. Shropshire was at the helm, leading the charge,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Hines told the courtroom.

Shropshire’s attorney said his client would appeal, but otherwise declined to comment. He argued in court that the bribe was mere banter.

Dozens of people crowded into the federal courtroom in Baltimore for the sentencing.

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“Please don’t send my grandson away,” pleaded Shropshire’s grandmother Margurite Addison, who helped raise him.

Family members described Shropshire as a dutiful grandson, one who would rent a van and take neighborhood children skating and to the carnival. They said he was cheerful and intelligent.

Shropshire cited case law and medical research in his own defense, saying the testimony from drug-addled witnesses couldn’t be trusted.

His family said Shropshire’s young son missed his father and fought at school. The boy has begun counseling, they said. Shropshire asked for leniency, if only for the sake of his boy.

“I know what it’s like to not have a father around,” he told the judge.

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