Sergio Summerville was a small-time drug dealer living out of a storage unit in September 2016 when officers from the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force blocked him from leaving the facility.
One of the officers said he was with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. He was not. The officers said they had a warrant. They didn’t. They didn’t even know his name — though they tried to bluff, Summerville said.
They ended up taking thousands of dollars out of a sock he kept in his storage unit, he testified in federal court Wednesday, and left without charging him.
“They came at me like a gang or something,” said Summerville, 38.
Summerville is one of several men who are admitting to being drug dealers — some of them large-scale traffickers — under immunity deals with the federal government to testify against two officers with the Baltimore Police Department’s elite Gun Trace Task Force.
Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor are fighting federal racketeering charges in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. They are accused of shaking down suspected drug dealers and taking thousands of dollars in unearned overtime pay. Six officers have pleaded guilty; four are testifying for the government.
Ronald Hamilton’s previous appearances in the downtown federal courthouse were related to his two prior drug conspiracy convictions. They brought in lengthy prison sentences.
But on Wednesday, he took the witness stand against police. He said he and his wife were stopped in July 2016 while shopping for blinds. He said Detective Jemell Rayam dragged him out of the car, asked “Where’s the money at?” took $3,400 out of Hamilton’s pocket and slipped it into his police vest.
Rayam has admitted to the robbery and pleaded guilty.
Hamilton and his wife were handcuffed and taken to a satellite police office, where he said Sgt. Wayne Jenkins — another task force officer who has pleaded guilty — pretended to be a federal prosecutor and claimed to have caught Hamilton making three drug deals.
“That’s a lie,” Hamilton said he told them.
The officers took the Hamiltons to their $500,000 home in Carroll County, where they searched for drugs and cash. Rayam said he claimed, falsely, to have conducted surveillance on Hamilton to get the warrant. They found nothing illegal, but Hamilton had $75,000 in cash stored in heat-sealed bags. The officers took $25,000 and left without charging him with a crime.
Hamilton testified that he had reformed, and made money from selling cars, managing rental properties in West Baltimore and an assisted-living facility, and from gambling.
Defense attorneys cast doubt on those claims with casino records that showed him with massive losses, and asked repeatedly how he could afford such an expensive house two years after being released from federal prison.
During a second round of heavy questioning, Hamilton snapped.
“This right here destroyed my whole [expletive] family!” he yelled. “Everybody’s life is destroyed because of this. I’m in a divorce process because of this. … My kids are afraid to go in the house!”
U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake urged Hamilton to calm down.
Police stole Oreese Stevenson’s house keys in March 2016, entered his home without a warrant, broke open a safe and stole more than $100,000, he and the convicted officers testified.
Stevenson told a federal grand jury he had as much as 10 kilograms of cocaine at his home, some of which also was taken. That amount would sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ivan Bates is a defense attorney who represented multiple victims who have taken the stand in the case. He attended court for Stevenson’s testimony.
"The travesty of the GTTF is that the system turned a blind eye to what was really happening," said Bates, who is running for Baltimore state’s attorney. He said both police and prosecutors "knew exactly who these criminals with badges were."
"In the end, it was all about an arrest, a conviction, and a stat," Bates said.
Stevenson was a reluctant witness. Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise asked whether he wanted to take part in the trial.
“Not all,” he responded.
Defense attorney Jenifer Wicks asked if he had guns and drugs in the home.
“I don’t recall,” he said.
Stevenson said he is a truck driver and no longer deals drugs.
Earlier in the trial, two officers testified that they broke into Stevenson’s safe, counted $200,000, then put $100,000 back inside and closed it up. They filmed a video that purported to show them opening the safe for the first time.
The officers split $100,000.
Stevenson’s wife said officers also took an expensive watch and bags of clothes. She said she did not know the drugs and cash were in the home.
Summerville said he was nervous about cooperating with the FBI. He’s been rattled since the encounter with the officers, he said.
“What they did wasn’t right,” he said outside the courthouse. “I just want to put this behind me.”
On the stand, Summerville said the officers told him they had a warrant when they stopped him.
“They didn’t even know my name, after we talked for awhile,” Summerville said. “I said, ‘If you have a warrant and know everything, why are you asking my name?’ ”
He said another officer told him they wanted his information and to meet regularly with him, “like an extortion attempt.”
“For my freedom, I’d have to give him a certain amount every week,” Summerville said.
Gregory Thompson, an employee at the storage facility, said Hersl and Jenkins told him they needed access to the security camera system.
Thompson told the officers they’d have to get a warrant.
“They didn’t like that,” Thompson testified.
He said one of the officers — he couldn’t remember which — told him he “looked like someone who needed to be robbed.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Jean Marbella contributed to this article.