County Police Bust Maryland Half Of Suspected Concert Drug Ring

Coast-to-coast Group Used U.s. Postal Service, Investigators Say

April 28, 1991|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff writer

A coast-to-coast investigation into drug sales by a group of Grateful Dead rock fans has identified four suspects in a drug ring suspected of selling marijuana, LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms in Columbia and Ellicott City.

The drugs were sent to the Baltimore area from Oregon in overnight U.S. mail, apparently in timefor last month's Grateful Dead concert, Howard County narcotics officers said.

Police said the ring is suspected of shipping drugs to five otherstates and Mexico. In most of the locations, the Grateful Dead rock band had recently performed a concert, said Daniel Coon, a county narcotics officer.

The band has a traveling entourage that often numbers in the thousands. Many fans camp out for days before the concerts.

"These partners had all met through the Grateful Dead scene," Coon said. "Anytime there was a concert tour, they'd hook up with someone looking to provide drugs at the concerts. It's a real big business."

The Grateful Dead performed at the Capital Centre in Landover on March 17. The Oregon-based ring is believed to have sold marijuana and LSD at the concert and in recent weeks had sold more drugs to itslocal contacts, police said.

But the suspects claim that they have been unfairly singled out by police. The group's following has often complained that police are over-zealous in efforts to prosecute "Deadheads."

"There's a stigma attached to being a Grateful Dead fan," said Ronald Kurland, a Baltimore lawyer for one of the suspects, Bruce Pachino of Pikesville.

"A long time ago my client followed theGrateful Dead," Kurland said. "Now he listens to them on compact discs, but the police would have you believe he's running up and down the East Coast supplying LSD at Grateful Dead concerts."

An undercover county detective earlier this month purchased more than a pound ofmarijuana and a pound of psilocybin mushrooms and had made arrangements to purchase five more pounds of marijuana from the drug ring's contacts in Baltimore, police said.

A state police drug task force in Eugene, Ore., also seized an estimated 2,000 doses of LSD and several marijuana plants from a home where the ring is believed to have been operating, police said.

Charged with drug distribution are Pachino, 27, and his wife, Jessica Pachino, 19, who live in the 4600 block of Debilen Circle; and Eugene residents Sarah Fox, 22, and RichardFortin, 27.

Police believe Fox and Fortin, who were arrested Monday in Oregon, distributed drugs to contacts in other states. Both have also been charged with drug manufacturing, Eugene police said.

The Pachinos were arrested April 3. Police said they are not suspectedin the distribution of the drugs to the other states.

Bruce Pachino is free on $350,000 bond; Jessica Pachino is free on $50,000 bond.

Police here and in Oregon are continuing the investigation with federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents. More charges may be brought against the group, said E. Lawrence Knutson, the head of the Howard County vice and narcotics unit.

Some of the drugs shipped toMaryland were sent to post office boxes in Baltimore and Howard counties. The primary distribution points were Columbia and Ellicott City, Knutson said.

"The undercover detective working the case was told by the (Maryland) suspects that he could get any amount he wanted,"Knutson said. "They seemed very sure of getting whatever they needed."

Orders were made to the alleged Eugene distribution point by Western Union messages, said Eugene police detective Ron Swanson. Moneywas also wired to Oregon by Western Union, he said.

A drug task force comprised of several law enforcement agencies tracked the Eugenesuspects to several locations throughout the country during the six-month investigation before arrests were made, Swanson said.

Policebelieve the ring sold drugs in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Oregon, and Illinois.

Last year, Howard County police asked Merriweather Post Pavilion administrators to ban the Grateful Dead and its members from playing at the pavilion. Police cited concern over drug use associated with the band's followers.

Police made 29 drug arrests in September 1989 during a concert performed by Jerry Garcia, the lead singer for the band. Pavilion administrators have not booked the band or any of its members for the 1991 concert season, but have not banned the group.

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