A family-run crime enterprise carried out a series of high-wire burglaries, swiping entire safes, cracking open ATMs, and cutting power and phone service to businesses before rushing in, according to federal charges unsealed Thursday.
But the flashy robberies were a sideshow to the crew's prescription pill dealing at its home base in an auto shop on a dead-end Southwest Baltimore street, authorities allege. The group also is accused of distributing drugs at Lexington Market and smuggling them into a Jessup prison.
"All the activities that are being alleged against this organization are about one thing … the misused, abused and oftentimes over-prescribed opiate medications," said Gary Tuggle, DEA assistant special agent in charge for Baltimore, as he rattled a bottle of pills.
"This organization conducted a lot of criminal activity to support this part of their operation."
David Paschall Jr., 54, was the leader of the drug crew, federal prosecutors say, and the owner of Paschall's Auto, a body shop and alleged hub for the sale of oxycodone. His son, brother and nephew were implicated as well.
A woman who answered the phone at Paschall's Catonsville home declined to comment, as did two children who came to the door. An attorney who previously represented the family in criminal cases said he is representing neither Paschall or his brother in the current case and declined to comment.
Over the course of almost two years, the group racked up about $2 million in drug sales and netted an estimated $1 million from the robberies, according to federal authorities.
In all, 16 people have been charged in three separate indictments, six with drug offenses, another eight with bank robbery and two with both. Twelve men are in custody, according to the U.S. attorney's office, and another has been charged in Baltimore County.
More people are named in court filings as participants in the criminal organization — including other family members — but have not been charged. Authorities said the investigation continues.
Baltimore police Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said the charges stemmed in part from a "a detailed investigation into corruption."
In one burglary, a man identified himself as a police officer before breaking into a home,according to the victim. Another informant described in court documents that she saw a police badge at the body shop. But none of the defendants work for the Police Department, and Rodriguez declined to elaborate.
"We are constantly vigilant for any time that there is either a suggestion or evidence connecting members of the Police Department … in alleged or perceived illegal activity," he said. "But I'm not going to comment on where we're going with this."
The group carried out robberies in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, authorities said. According to a search warrant affidavit, the burglars scouted out locations ahead of time and disabled security systems as they broke in, hoping to remain undetected.
In one case, Paschall and three other men drove a pickup truck through a hole they had cut in a wire fence in the 1500 block of W. Patapsco Ave. last November, according to the affidavit. The men cut the telephone lines and pulled surveillance cameras from the walls, federal authorities say.
In another incident last year, evidence from a burglary in West Virginia was discovered in a stolen rental van that had been set on fire and was later found by Howard County police. The tags on the van had been stolen from a car that was being repaired at a body shop near Paschall's Auto, according to the affidavit.
And as recently as June 17, the burglars used a forklift at Crazy Ray's junkyard in Baltimore to stack up cars next to a balcony at the business, according to the document. The burglars then climbed up the pile and stole a safe, according to the filing.
The manager of Crazy Ray's said he had recently fired Chad Paschall, one of David Paschall's sons, and said that Chad Paschall's half-brother had been working at the junkyard the day before the break-in, according to the affidavit.
David Paschall's wife and sister are also described as "core members of this criminal enterprise" in an affidavit but weren't charged. Efforts to reach the sister Thursday night were unsuccessful.
The family members are accused of carrying out robberies together and juggling the management of the drug business. Court records say the family ties made it difficult to recruit informants.
"Several members of this group are blood relations, making this group historically harder to infiltrate," DEA task force officer Glenn J. Hester wrote in the affidavit.
DEA agents and Baltimore police were still at Paschall's Auto in the 800 block of Desoto Road Thursday afternoon, in a lot that contains a rusted shipping container with an obscenity scrawled along its side.
At an opening at the end of the street, a white Cadillac with blown-out tires was parked next to a sign advertising the body shop's services. "Paschall Auto Body and Fender, oil change and tune up, 24 hour towing," it read.
Neighbors in Paschall's Catonsville community said police had swarmed the street early Thursday morning, conducting a search. But John Rasmussen, who lives next to Paschall, said he knew nothing about any crimes. He knew Paschall as a good neighbor.
"He helped anybody if he had it and you needed it, it was like that," Rasmussen added.
Police had been getting tips from informants about some crew members since 2009, according to the affidavit. But the investigation ramped up when law enforcement began watching the Southwest Baltimore body shop last summer.
Agents gathered video and used cell towers to track suspects' movements around the time of the robberies, establishing a pattern of the crew's activities. Eventually, federal agents obtained a wiretap for the phones of Paschall and another man that "confirmed much of this information provided by informants," according to the affidavit.
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More than 100 officers swept in Thursday and searched 21 locations — homes, businesses and a storage unit — that authorities say are connected to the crimes.
Paschall has a criminal history dating to at least 1980, according to court documents. He has convictions for assault with a gun, a handgun offense, two burglaries, a theft and possession of oxycodone in 2010, according to federal authorities.
"Yeah, I sell Percocets, but it isn't a big deal," Paschall said during the most recent arrest, according to the affidavit.
Baltimore Sun reporter Justin George contributed to this article.