As federal prosecutors were winding down their cases against one of Baltimore’s most notorious drug gangs, the Black Guerilla Family, one name stood out among the nearly two dozen members sentenced to prison for firearms, racketeering and drug crimes.
Phillip Poggie, 72, lived in a modest Glen Burnie apartment and had retired from a 13-year career as an administrative officer with the Maryland Aviation Administration in April 2015.
His family says that he regularly preached abstinence from drugs and alcohol and demonstrated the value of hard work with his commitment to his job. Prior to 2017, Poggie had never been charged with a felony or any drug possession or distribution offense in Maryland, court records show.
But Poggie pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess 100 grams or more of heroin in concert with the BGF in February 2018. He was sentenced to a year in prison but received several months’ worth of credit for time served while awaiting trial.
The grandson who he helped raise says he has no idea what happened to “the leader of the family” for him to turn to a life of crime with a notorious prison gang prosecutors say committed multiple murders in Baltimore and sold heroin in the city as well as Anne Arundel County.
Court records show Poggie was caught in wiretapped conversations speaking with Deandre Dorsey, who prosecutors described as "a heroin distributor and member of the Black Guerilla Family” as well as the leader of a drug trafficking organization that operated primarily in Anne Arundel County from August 2014 to May 2017.
According to his plea, Poggie struggled to understand his new place in the BGF drug trafficking ring. Conversations recorded in 2017 show he was still learning the lingo of the drug trade under Dorsey.
“Do you feel like bringing me something?” Dorsey asked Poggie on April 14, 2017, Poggie’s plea agreement reads.
“What do you want?” Poggie replied.
“5 dollars yo, do you know what I’m talking about?” Dorsey said.
“I’m not sure,” Poggie said.
“I need 5 yo. I need 5 yo,” Dorsey said before Poggie responded, “Oh, five of the bags I got?”
Two weeks later, according to the plea agreement, Poggie was again recorded talking to Dorsey. Customers were complaining that the drugs Poggie had packaged were coming in light, Dorsey said.
It’s a stark contrast to the “no alcohol, no drugs” man who helped raise his grandson, Thomas “T.J.” Poggie, in the absence of a father.
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, T.J. Poggie described his grandfather as the father figure in his life who would walk to work even during a blizzard and always advocated that the younger members of his family avoid dangerous vices.
T.J. Poggie said the family noticed changes in Phillip Poggie’s demeanor after he retired from his position at the Maryland Aviation Administration in April 2015 but didn’t know what to attribute it to.
T.J. Poggie said he knew his grandfather had a gambling problem but didn’t know what prompted Phillip Poggie to start packaging and storing drugs for the Black Guerilla Family.
“I don’t exactly know why he got involved with it,” T.J. said. “Nobody really knows but him.”
Defense attorney Richard Bardos said Phillip Poggie has since been released from prison. Attempts to contact Poggie at his Glen Burnie apartment, over the phone and through former defense attorneys were unsuccessful.
Now in North Carolina, T.J. Poggie said his family has largely cut ties with his grandfather, calling him a “hypocrite” who had potentially put the family in danger by using his residence as a place to store and package drugs.
A week before Phillip Poggie was arrested on Aug. 28, 2017, T.J. Poggie said he visited his grandfather with his children and his mother, Poggie’s daughter.
“A week later, the door gets kicked in by police,” T.J. Poggie said, upset by the fact that he and his family potentially could have been charged as accomplices if they were in the apartment when police conducted the raid.
“That’s what pissed me off about the whole situation,” he said.
“It’s so baffling to everybody about what happened.”