Federal, state and local drug enforcement agents were scattered across the Baltimore area early today, searching 10 locations for evidence of a drug conspiracy that allegedly imported as much as five kilos of cocaine a month from Miami to this city.
Citing the street value of pure cocaine diluted to a 25 percent street value, DEA officials put the street value of the drugs handled by the entire organization as high as $250 million a year. The share of drugs transported to Baltimore, however, was said to be less than that amount.
Officials identified the alleged leader of the ring as George Bonnett, 26, of Glen Burnie, who was arrested last night in his automobile. Authorities said they recovered between $60,000 and $100,000 from a laundry detergent box inside the car.
DEA Agent Douglas Biales said last night that of the nine men charged in a federal drug conspiracy indictment, seven were in custody in this city or in Miami, where other locations were raided by federal agents.
Last night's raids, which involved more than 100 agents and detectives, were the result of a continuing Drug Enforcement Administration investigation that was turned over to a newly created joint task force targeting violent drug offenders in the Baltimore area.
The 10 locations raided last night included homes and warehouses in the city and in Anne Arundel County, where agents and detectives were continuing their search for drugs, weapons and documentary evidence of the conspiracy early today.
Among other evidence, agents confiscated an automobile -- recently arrived from Miami -- that they said might contain as much as 5 kilograms of uncut cocaine, possibly hidden somewhere in the engine.
After midnight, agents were still waiting to obtain a warrant from a judge before conducting a search of that vehicle, which was planned to take place before TV cameras and news photographers in the basement garage of the federal building in Charles Center.
The 17-month investigation of the Miami-to-Baltimore ring began the Baltimore Police Department's narcotics unit, and then, as information developed, the case was brought to the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, involving DEA agents and investigators of the Internal Revenue Service.
Eventually, the probe was turned over to the newly formed violent offenders task force -- a joint federal and local unit formed after the investigation of Linwood "Rudy" Williams in 1989 and 1990, when DEA agents and Baltimore detectives targeted a west-side drug trafficker suspected in a series of murders.
The success of that investigation prompted federal officials to form the violent offenders task force. This probe was turned over to that unit when it was learned that the targeted individuals were allegedly using threats of violence to conduct business.
During the investigation, undercover agents allegedly purchased cocaine from suspects at various levels in the organization. In addition, authorities said they were able to track the cocaine from South and Southwest Baltimore and Anne Arundel County back to its Miami source.
In addition to Mr. Bonnett, the following suspects were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine:
Lazaro Ramirez, 37, of Hialeah, Fla., who was arrested after he arrived from Miami in the car believed to contain the uncut cocaine; Willie Burke, 39, of Baltimore; Donald Hinkle, 25, of Glen Burnie; Carl Wyatt, 24, of Baltimore; Jerry Kline, 24, of Pasadena; Joseph Schlick, 27, of Baltimore; Michael Frey, 26, of Baltimore; and Jimmy Clark, 23, of Baltimore.
Mr. Clark and Mr. Frey were the only suspects not in custody last night.