Former bail bondsman Donald Stepp was one of the federal government’s star witnesses at the 2018 trial of the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force, unlocking a new dimension of the corruption.
When Stepp took the stand, he not only revealed that the officers were stealing money, but also told jurors how he and Sgt. Wayne Jenkins committed burglaries and sold the drugs the hard-charging officer was taking off the street. He had hard proof: photos and videos he had taken over the years. He even had Amazon receipts for a burglar’s toolkit found in Jenkins’ van.
Now back home after a stint in federal prison, Stepp, 55, is speaking out again — frustrated that Jenkins and other GTTF officers, including Daniel Hersl, continue to insist the charges against them were trumped up.
And just as he did on the witness stand, Stepp is adding new details about the crimes, attitudes and behind-the-scenes recklessness of the corrupt cops who crippled the agency’s post-Freddie Gray attempts to prove it was reforming. He even recounts, backed with photos, the night Stepp, Jenkins and a member of a Central American drug cartel took in a fight at the Royal Farms Arena.
“They’re in complete denial. Man up and do your time,” Stepp said. “It goes to show you what type of pathological liars they are.”
He says the public still doesn’t know just how deceitful — and dangerous — Jenkins was. Stepp shared for the first time a letter that Jenkins wrote to him while incarcerated, and before Stepp was charged, in which Jenkins appears to be trying to cover his tracks.
“Anything he was around needs to be reinvestigated,” Stepp said in an interview at his home, where he is on home ankle monitoring. “To him, every investigation was a potential robbery. Everything he was doing on the street, he embellished.”
Jenkins’ civil attorney, appointed by the city, declined to comment on his behalf and Jenkins did not respond to a letter. The former sergeant is serving 25 years in prison.
Stepp no longer lives in the waterfront home in Bowleys Quarters where Jenkins used to bring drugs in the middle of the night; that was lost to foreclosure following his conviction. Bald, pale and fit, he often wears a cross on a thick gold chain, and still drives a truck slathered in lascivious logos of his former company, Double D Bail Bonds. He has a heavy Baltimore accent and a mischievous laugh.
He was sentenced to five years on drug charges, and served more than two before being granted compassionate release, in large part due to the needs of a disabled child.
Though those close to him would like him to move on, Stepp seems restless and eager to talk about the case that put him in the headlines. In addition to his testimony, he previously spoke to the authors of the 2020 book “I Got a Monster.”
Stepp grew up in Middle River, where he was friends with Jenkins’ older brother. He says he started dealing drugs at age 9, selling marijuana at a pool hall where he worked. After previous criminal convictions, Stepp vowed to stay on the right side of the law and worked in the mortgage industry, and then bail bonds. But he had lucrative cartel drug connections and continued dealing.
He testified that he played cards with Jenkins and one day in 2012 the officer asked if he knew how to move large amounts of cocaine. A partnership developed, where Jenkins brought Stepp drugs that had been seized off the street. In one particularly jaw-dropping moment from his trial testimony, Stepp said Jenkins brought him bags of looted pharmaceutical drugs he’d grabbed during the 2015 riot.
Stepp showed a reporter pictures of what he said was a trip to the Dominican Republic to meet with his supplier: They partied at a posh nightclub inside a fortified compound, cruised the street in fancy cars and flew around in a helicopter. He was assigned two security guards who didn’t speak English and kept him constantly on the move, he says.
With Jenkins, the dealing was pure profit — swiped from the streets of Baltimore and resold in the cul-de-sacs of Baltimore County. Later, as they neared what was expected to be a huge drug score, Stepp says he brought Jenkins and other officers as security on Stepp’s night on the town with his cartel friend, which included a trip to Scores strip club. He has a picture of the three of them sitting ringside that night at an MMA event at the Royal Farms Arena.
Stepp took pictures of himself with Jenkins — at casinos, at the Super Bowl, at restaurants — but also of their misdeeds. His phone was a jackpot for the federal government, offering photographic evidence of a slew of crimes, including a storage locker he said Jenkins directed him to break into and clean it out before his squad carried out a search.
Why would Stepp take pictures of crimes? He says he was wary of the officer.
“I was ‘breadcrumbing’ him the whole time,” Stepp said.
In one never-before-seen video, he sits in the passenger seat of a vehicle with Jenkins and uses binoculars to watch the home of someone Stepp says they were stalking. On the recording, Stepp says they plan on eating lobster that night.
In a June 2016 video, he pans around Jenkins’ office in Baltimore Police headquarters, showing a couch with a bed pillow. “This is Jenky Jenk’s office,” Stepp says gleefully on the recording. A July photo shows Stepp outside a Canton apartment building where officers stole an expensive handbag — Stepp says he was waiting for Jenkins to toss drugs off of a balcony to him.
To demonstrate what he calls Jenkins’ cunning nature, Stepp provided a four-page, handwritten letter Jenkins sent him in April 2017, less than two months after the officer had been arrested.
The envelope was addressed in the name of a son Jenkins and his wife lost during childbirth, with a return address of Camp Lejeune, where Jenkins served in the Marines. In it, Jenkins discusses how he plans to clear his name, but Stepp says he’s instead attempting to square away alternative accounts of his crimes.
“Remember that time that I brung [sic] that junkie with me to your house ... he had some watches for sale. You didn’t want them so we left,” Jenkins writes. Stepp has said that he stole watches with Jenkins and that Jenkins also brought him stolen watches.
Jenkins urges Stepp to get with a mutual friend named Joseph Glenn, a former Baltimore County drug dealer, claiming Jenkins found two baseball cards in the basement of a home he was renting out and sold them to Glenn for $15,000. “Joe G. paid me in 100 dollar bills,” Jenkins writes.
Stepp said Jenkins was trying to find an explanation for having a large amount of cash. Glenn confirmed to The Baltimore Sun there was no such exchange: “He was scrambling to try to cover his tracks, and I collect sports memorabilia,” Glenn said.
In the last paragraph of the letter, Jenkins drops the pretense entirely: “Don, Rossville Rd Lexus Truck and Buick. Truck rear pass side, just in front of the rear pass tire. Up high above cross brace or struts. Buick in rear.” Stepp says Jenkins was asking Stepp to recover an illegal GPS device they had placed on a target.
To be sure, while Stepp and his phone full of evidence may have been the final blow that brought Jenkins down, Stepp did not come forward on his own — he continued dealing drugs and was busted in a targeted investigation. Stepp says he believes Jenkins was giving up information on him to the government, despite assuring Stepp that he would look out for him.
Stepp says there’s much more to the story, but pressed for proof, he offers details that mostly further color in what’s already known about Jenkins. On the advice of his attorney, he did not tell stories that he says could implicate other, uncharged people.
He’s also boasted on social media and elsewhere that the GTTF conspiracy went higher than Jenkins, for example referring to a former top official as a Mafia boss term. Pressed on the point, he says he doesn’t have anything to tie leadership to Jenkins’ crimes, but rather believes they are complicit for being in charge at the time.
Jenkins attempted to cooperate with the federal government but was deemed manipulative and deceitful. And that is a major caveat when assessing accounts from people who heard stories from Jenkins.
Stepp concedes that beyond what he personally experienced with Jenkins, he found the officer to be an unreliable narrator. He said Jenkins often bluffed him about their targets or the size of potential scores.
“I knew he was lying so many times, but my greed kept me there,” Stepp said. “He was like a lottery ticket.”
Stepp, meanwhile, also says the government knows more than has been revealed. He says he is irked not only that Jenkins has claimed in missives from prison that the government trumped up charges against him, but that Det. Daniel Hersl continues to claim he is innocent — even after prosecutors revealed his admissions in secret proffer sessions before his trial.
Stepp, who says he doesn’t drink, remembers being at a fundraiser for the officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Liquor was flowing. “Wayne Jenkins stood up and said, ‘Let’s do a shot for Danny Hersl, one of the most crooked cops with the most complaints of anyone.’ Everyone laughed,” Stepp said. “They’re pathological liars.”
Stepp wants to be clear, however, that he is thankful for the government’s efforts. “They saved my life,” he says.
Stepp says he plans to take a job as a counselor. And he says he hopes to start a federal prison consulting business, helping people navigate the system, such as learning how to earn credits and get involved in programs.
He promised to change last time he went to prison. “Believe me, I could make things happen so quick it’d make your head spin,” Stepp says. “But God saved me. God had his hand in this. This is the beginning of a redemption story.”