Case of missing $4,000 from 1988 police drug raid remains unresolved

March 24, 1991|By Roger Twigg

An article in Sunday's editions of The Sun concerning money seized in a 1988 drug raid misstated the circumstances under which Sgt. Ellis Baldwin left the Baltimore Police Department. In fact, Sergeant Baldwin retired from the department after more than 30 years of service for reasons unrelated to the case.

The Sun regrets the error.

A little over two years ago, the police raided a house iNortheast Baltimore and seized some guns, a small amount of drugs and a large amount of money -- just how much depends on whom you believe.

Lloyd and Louise Wheeler, the targets of the investigation, maintained that $14,000 had been in the safe in their house in the 1600 block of Heathfield Road on Dec. 22, 1988, the night before the police raided their house because of suspected drug trafficking.


When the undercover officers who conducted the raid counted the money at the house after the raid the next day, they said there was $11,771 and made out a receipt for that amount.

But when the same officers drove downtown to turn in the money at police headquarters a few hours later, they were able to produce only $7,771.

Since then, a sergeant and two officers have been brought up on departmental charges for failing to properly inventory the money, said Michael A. Fry, an assistant city solicitor.

But the missing money has never been found, he said, and the authorities say they don't know for certain whether anyone took it.

Mr. Fry said the evidence in the case "was too circumstantial" to charge any of the police officers involved in the raid and the counting ofthe money. "We couldn't come up with any other evidence," he said. "The state's attorney's office also looked at it and declined to prosecute."

Neither of the Wheelers could be found to comment on what may have happened to the money found in their house. The police said they have left town, and their lawyer said he doesn't know how to find them. Earlier, the Wheelers told the police that the relatively large amount of cash had been from a vending machine business.

Mr. Fry said that of the three officers, Sergeant Ellis Baldwin was brought up on administrative charges of neglect of duty. He did not contest the charge and was told to attend counseling sessions. He later resigned from the department for unrelated reasons, Mr. Fry said.

Officers Perry T. Standfield, 27, and Craig R. Singleterry, 27, were given administrative hearings last month on departmental charges that they had failed to properly inventory the money. Officer Standfield was acquitted and Officer Singleterry was convicted and given a letter of reprimand, Mr. Fry said.

George Bush, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union, said he believed that the discrepancy resulted when an automatic money counter used at the house where the raid took place incorrectly calculated the cash.

"These are good officers. There was no accusation of theft. They wouldn't take any money," Mr. Bush said.

The disposition of the Wheelers' case could not be learned,but they stand to get back only $3,000 under an agreement with the city, which had argued that the money seized was the product of a narcotics operation. The balance of the $7,771 will go to the city under the agreement, said Leo W. Ottey Jr., an assistant city solicitor.

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