James C. Harris, who authorities said pumped $2 million worth of heroin into Baltimore monthly, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to drug and tax evasion charges.
Harris, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess more than 5 kilograms of heroin with intent to distribute and to two counts of evading income taxes for the years 1989 and 1990 when he spent $339,419.
Harris faced a maximum penalty of life in prison. But under a plea agreement, reached before his four-week trial was to begin yesterday in U.S. District Court, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 20 to 24 years.
Chief Judge Walter E. Black Jr. set sentencing for Oct. 21.
"He was the major heroin distributor in Edmondson Village," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack F. Purcell said of Harris. "Between the summer of 1989 and early 1991, he was probably the primary distributor of heroin in Baltimore."
Authorities said the drug ring operated by Harris pumped $2 million worth of narcotics into Baltimore each month.
Mr. Purcell that said Harris, known as J.C., was popular among addicts because he had a reputation for bringing high quality heroin to Baltimore from New York.
According to a statement of facts read by Mr. Purcell, Harris arrived here from New York in the summer of 1988 and soon established a heroin and cocaine distribution ring.
Harris distributed bulk quantities of heroin to smaller dealers, who would break the "packs" down into 100 bags that sold for $25 each, according to the statement of facts.
Prosecutors determined Harris' illegal earnings by tracking the amount of money he spent in 1988, 1989 and 1990. He did not file federal income tax returns for the latter two years, they said.
Harris was arrested in June 1991 after a nine-month joint investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and city police that included surveillance and telephone wiretaps.
Two Baltimore police officers, Monique Hill, 23, and Kimberly Peoples, 31, were also arrested in the operation.
The former officers were recent graduates of the police academy who had not completed their probationary periods. They resigned after being charged by local authorities with drug offenses connected with the Harris conspiracy.
Hill was convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin, given a three-year suspended sentence and placed on 18 months probation.
The disposition of Ms. Peoples' case was not known.