Three Colombian nationals were arrested Wednesday night on a crowded street in Fells Point as they attempted to pay off a man they thought was a drug courier for delivering 20 kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to Baltimore.
In fact, the "courier" was an undercover federal drug agent, backed up by 20 fellow agents, some armed with submachine guns, and by Baltimore police officers, a police helicopter and K-9 units.
The three suspects, believed to be part of the Medellin drug cartel, who had traveled from New York City Wednesday evening with $105,000 in cash to pay the courier's transportation costs, arrived in Fells Point about 9 p.m.
They had planned to take the cocaine offered by the undercover agent back to New York for distribution, according to Agent Douglas N. Biales, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration's Baltimore office.
When the three men arrived in Fells Point, they met the undercover DEA agent on Broadway near Thames Street and showed him that they were carrying bundles of cash. The agent then led one of the men a half-block down Thames Street so that the man could examine the 20 kilograms of cocaine allegedly smuggled from Colombia. The "cocaine" was actually a sham substance that resembles the drug, Agent Biales said.
Once the three men separated, the backup DEA agents moved in and arrested them without incident.
If the suspects had tried to escape, police officers from the Southeastern District were posted around Fells Point, along with a police helicopter and K-9 units, Agent Biales said.
Charged with attempting to possess with intent to distribute cocaine were: Horacio Zapata-Viveros, 25, of Queens, N.Y.; Alanzo Gomez-Montoya, 27, of Stamford, Conn.; and David Lucumi, 26, of Queens, N.Y. All three men were born in Colombia. They are being held at the Baltimore City Jail.
Agent Biales said the arrests were the result of a short-term undercover operation, with assistance from the Baltimore Police Department.
"We knew they were coming down to Maryland based on undercover phone conversations," he said.
Fells Point, which was crowded with pedestrians on a mild evening, was used as the rendezvous because it was easy for DEA agents to blend into the crowd, Agent Biales said.
The investigation is continuing, and more arrests could be made, he said.