Maryland harness track owner Mark R. Vogel used cocaine with girlfriends during an overnight stay at Donald Trump's glitzy Taj Mahal casino-hotel in Atlantic City this spring -- one of three trips in which he and friends ferried the drug to the New Jersey resort aboard his personal helicopter, federal court papers alleged yesterday.
Federal authorities seized the helicopter -- a 1980 Jet Ranger that bore the name "Vogel" on both sides -- from Martin State Airport yesterday afternoon based on the allegations contained in a federal court affidavit that was unsealed yesterday.
So far no federal charges have been filed against Mr. Vogel, although he has been the subject of a federal investigation since August 1988, according to the affidavit. Mr.Vogel, 42, is a Prince George's County developer and sole owner of Maryland's two harness tracks, Rosecroft Raceway near Oxon Hill and Delmarva Downs in Ocean City.
The seizure of Mr. Vogel's private aircraft occurred the same day as state Racing Commission officials appeared before a legislative committee concerned about the possible diversion of harness track funds to some of Mr. Vogel's troubled business enterprises.
The federal investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents was fTC first revealed last week when it became known that Mr. Vogel was arrested Sept. 13 by police in Northern Virginia and charged with possession of 4 grams of cocaine.
Mr. Vogel was stopped by a DEA agent as he drove to the house of a friend and fellow developer, Carter Boehm, according to the affidavit released yesterday. After his arrest, Mr. Vogel told the agent that he was on his way to Mr. Boehm's house "to use cocaine with him," the affidavit alleges.
Breckinridge L. Willcox, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, would not comment on when Mr. Vogel might be charged federally in connection with his alleged drug use in Atlantic City. Mr. Willcox has refused to confirm that his office was investigating Mr. Vogel. Yesterday, he would say only that "the investigation . . . is broader than Mark Vogel." Sources have said that the drug investigation has led to an inquiry into possible political corruption by developers.
But the court papers unsealed yesterday dealt only with the drug investigation. The inquiry, begun in August 1988, focused on "the distribution of kilogram quantities of cocaine which were transported from Florida" to the Washington area, according to the affidavit signed by Barry Jamison, a DEA agent.
During the investigation, three individuals -- including "a longtime friend" of Mr. Vogel -- told federal drug agents that they had used cocaine with the developer and knew that he brought the drug aboard his helicopter, which is owned by Mr. Vogel's company, Air Shark Copter Co. of Wilmington, Del.
Interviews with those individuals, who are not identified in the court papers, detailed several occasions when Mr. Vogel allegedly flew friends to Atlantic City aboard his helicopter and, while staying in hotels there, used cocaine, the court papers allege.
During an April 5 overnight trip to Atlantic City, "the longtime friend" of Mr. Vogel accompanied the race-track owner and two women friends to the resort town. The friend brought a "small quantity of cocaine" aboard the helicopter, and they checked into a room at the Taj Mahal where all four "ingested" the cocaine, the affidavit alleges.
A second informant who claims to have known Mr. Vogel "for years" described another trip to Atlantic City in 1989. While in a hotel, Mr. Vogel and "all the passengers who traveled" with him to Atlantic City used cocaine, the affidavit alleges.
On yet a third trip to Atlantic City in early November 1989, that same informant said he was told by Mr. Vogel that "a friend of his, Carter Boehm" would be joining them and "would be bringing some cocaine for them to ingest," the affidavit said. All three "engaged in cocaine use," the affidavit alleged.
Mr. Boehm, a real estate broker and developer, is already facing federal drug charges. A federal grand jury in Roanoke, Va., indicted him in June on charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute it, conspiracy to encourage perjury and witness-tampering. The indictment stemmed from an investigation of an alleged scheme in which automatic weapons and $50,000 were to be traded for a kilogram of cocaine.
Mr. Willcox said his office is cooperating with the U.S. attorney's office in Roanoke.
Mr. Vogel has refused to talk to reporters since his arrest. Yesterday, his attorney, Paul Mark Sandler, said, "It's important to bear in mind that this affidavit is based upon allegations which are only allegations, and Mr. Vogel deserves an opportunity to refute them. Unfortunately, the newspaper is not the proper forum to refute allegations contained in an affidavit of this nature."
Yesterday's revelations about Mr. Vogel's alleged drug use followed by several hours a meeting in which state legislators sought assurances from the Maryland Racing Commission that it had taken steps to protect the state's interest in Mr. Vogel's two harness tracks.
The subcommittee chairman, Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, D-Howard, told commission officials that they should prepare for the worst. "I don't want to be a voice of doom [but] I can't see anything but a worsening situation," Mr. Kasemeyer said.