Freedom ends for bus-riding drug smuggler

February 05, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

Yesterday's story on the surrender of Gladys Sanchez should have said she turned herself in on Feb. 4.

) The Sun Regrets the Error

Gladys Sanchez, a 59-year-old drug smuggler who had been mistakenly released from jail, surrendered to authorities in New York City last night, the FBI said.

In their zeal to announce they had caught Sanchez again after a foul-up that allowed her to walk away from a 10-year prison sentence, law enforcement officials had mistakenly announced Wednesday that police had nabbed her.


In fact, she and her attorney, Stuart R. Blatt, worked out her surrender with Maryland State Police and the FBI last night and she voluntarily turned herself in, said Andy Manning, an FBI spokesman.

She was driven back and arrived at FBI headquarters in Woodlawn at 10 p.m. She was later transferred to the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup.

Mr. Blatt said Sanchez, who had been erroneously released Jan. 15, spent time with her family while in New York and sought medical attention for a heart condition, an ulcerated foot and a diabetic problem.

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., spokesman for Maryland Public Safety and Correctional Services, had said Wednesday that police had caught Sanchez as she apparently was preparing to leave for her home in Puerto Rico.

But yesterday, before Sanchez turned herself in, Mr. Sipes said he had got inaccurate information.

"It was miscommunication yesterday between law enforcement officials in New York City and members of the Maryland State Police correctional investigation unit," he said.

Sanchez was sentenced in December to 10 years in state prison for conspiracy to distribute the synthetic narcotic fentanyl, also known as China White. Sanchez, who speaks little English, was being held at the Baltimore Detention Center while her son and others were being tried on related drug charges. As part of Sanchez's plea bargain on state charges, federal drug charges against her were dropped. Apparently acting on the dismissal of those charges, U.S. marshals put her on a New York-bound bus Jan. 15.

U.S. marshals and state corrections officials blamed each other for the mistake. Mr. Sipes said corrections officials have conducted an investigation, but it failed to pinpoint the reason for the error.

Mr. Blatt said Sanchez had no reason to believe she was doing anything wrong by going to New York.

"She felt that if federal police officers were coming to her and said she was going to be released, that everything was OK," Mr. Blatt said.

U.S. Marshal Scott A. Sewell, who said on Sunday that marshals may have paid Sanchez's bus fare, said yesterday that a federal judge had ordered him not to comment. He said the judge was concerned about publicity because Sanchez's son, Frankie Sanchez, and eight other men are on trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on related drug charges.

Gladys Sanchez was arrested March 29 at Penn Station with a pound of the deadly synthetic narcotic fentanyl.

The chronology:

* April 14, 1992 -- Gladys Sanchez is held at the Baltimore Detention Center on $5 million bail on charges of possession of narcotics with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute narcotics.

* June 9, 1992 -- Howard County officials place a detainer on her, meaning corrections officials are to hold her even if she were to be freed of charges from other jurisdictions.

* Aug. 18, 1992 -- A detainer is placed on her by U.S. marshals.

* Sept. 25, 1992 -- Baltimore officials notify detention center officials that they won't prosecute her.

* Nov. 16, 1992 -- Howard officials notify detention officials that they won't prosecute her.

* Dec. 23, 1992 -- Sanchez is sentenced to 10 years in prison after entering a guilty plea to charges of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and heroin. Federal charges were dropped under the plea bargain.

* Jan. 15, 1993 -- U.S. marshals take her from the detention center to federal court. Instead of returning her to prison, they take her to the bus station, apparently in the belief she was free to leave.

* Feb. 14, 1993 -- Sanchez surrenders.

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