Baltimore narcotics agents yesterday seized about 1 million capsules, vials and plastic bags -- all suspected drug-packaging materials -- at a downtown shop and warehouse where the items were allegedly sold over the counter.
Police said the items were being sold at the Sonja Wholesale at 7 N. Eutaw St. They called the business a major supplier of drug equipment.
Also seized were numerous chemical cutting agents typically associated with drugs, and $1,600 in cash.
Police said they would seek indictments charging more than one dozen people in the on-going investigation, including the owner of the business, Joseph Yi, 33. Mr. Yi's mother, who was working in the warehouse when police raided it at 4 p.m., said he was in Korea.
Also taken from the warehouse were digital scales, strainers, and other precision tools typically used by drug dealers. All the items were apparently for sale, police said.
"The items by themselves aren't illegal, but coupled with the drug cutting agents, we feel we have a very strong case," said Sgt. John Sieracki, a city narcotics officer. No drugs were found.
The warehouse operated a legitimate trinket business and sold a potpourri of items, including umbrellas, wigs, jewelry, gloves and perfume, Sgt. Sieracki said.
An undercover city police officer, who received a tip about the business, recently visited the shop and bought several of the trinket items. When he paid for the items, he asked the counter clerk if he could buy some crack vials, and the clerk pulled some out from behind the counter, Sgt. Sieracki said.
The officer paid the clerk $20 for 100 vials, Sgt. Sieracki said.
"It was a simple over-the-counter operation, but it was big-time stuff. We're confident we've taken out the major supplier in Baltimore," Sgt. Sieracki said.
The bags and vials were stored in shelves and drawers throughout the warehouse, police said.
Drug dealers use vials and gelatin capsules to package cocaine. The bags are used more frequently for heroin, police said.
Crack dealers usually charge $50 for a vial of crack cocaine, and often like to use vials of a certain color to distinguish themselves from other drug dealers, police said.
"The vials are important to their marketing strategy. People on the street come to identify dealers by the color of their vials," Sgt. Sieracki said.