Police have arrested 19 people who they say funneled heroin and fentanyl from the Bronx to South Baltimore.
A two-year investigation into the pipeline culminated with an early morning raid Tuesday and the arrests of five alleged drug bosses, police said. Officers seized 1,075 grams of heroin, 200 grams of cocaine and 66 grams of fentanyl, police said.
Fentanyl is so potent mere micrograms can kill.
“We have saved untold amounts of lives,” said Don Hibbert, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Baltimore.
Federal agents, police and prosecutors announced the arrests at a news conference Wednesday. They pledged to disrupt the rising tide of fentanyl reaching Maryland.
Hibbert said fentanyl-related overdoses in the state surged from 25 in 2012 to more than 1,000 last year. Authorities say the drug trade incites the gun violence that continues to grip Baltimore.
“The ability to stop and intercept drug activity, especially the targeting of fentanyl distribution is an integral component to tackling violence in our city,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said.
Called the Milligan drug crew by police, the five alleged bosses are accused of selling heroin from New York in the Cherry Hill and Brooklyn neighborhoods of South Baltimore and Brooklyn Park in Anne Arundel County. Police said they discovered the alleged crew while investigating tips and overdoses in Anne Arundel County.
Police said Kereem Thompson, 42, of the Bronx supplied heroin and fentanyl to drug dealers in Baltimore. A grand jury indicted him last week on charges of distributing heroin and fentanyl into Maryland. His attorney did not respond to a message Wednesday.
Police and prosecutors declined to say more about why Thompson was allegedly supplying heroin to Baltimore.
The others indicted on drug charges include Baltimore residents Joseph Milligan, 39; Marquise McElveen, 35; Randie Howard, 31; and Travis Anderson, 31. Milligan’s attorney declined to comment. Online court records did not list attorneys for the others.
Three other Baltimore men and one woman were charged with felony drug crimes. Ten more face misdemeanor drug charges.
Baltimore prosecutors said they had not linked specific overdose deaths to the alleged drug dealers. But Gerald Collins, who leads major investigations for the state’s attorney’s office, said authorities have seen a general increase in overdoses.
“There have been a large uptick in fentanyl-related deaths that come from that Cherry Hill area,” he said.
In Anne Arundel County, 53 people overdosed and six of them died from drugs tracing back to the crew, a police spokesman said.
Addicts often ingest fentanyl unwittingly while using heroin.
“The majority of people that are using it don’t know,” said Gary Tuggle, a deputy commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department.
Produced in Chinese labs, fentanyl is typically shipped to Mexico and then smuggled into the United States. Fifty times more potent than heroin, it has been responsible for a rising number of overdoses each year across Maryland.