Convictions wrap up trial of violent heroin gang

November 23, 1993|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Staff Writer

The kingpin of the violent "Jamaican Black Mafia" heroin gang -- left a paraplegic after he was shot by a Baltimore police officer -- was convicted yesterday on a battery of drug and weapons charges in federal court.

Pushed from the courtroom in a wheelchair, Adewale Aladekoba muttered obscenities at a Housing Authority officer and prosecutor whose work had just helped win his conviction. He elevated his remarks to shouts as he continued down the hall.

Aladekoba, 31, who was shot in a gunfight preceding his arrest in August 1992, will be sentenced March 11. U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson will sentence three other leaders of the group, including Aladekoba's 22-year-old brother Victor, the same month.

The verdict ended the six-week trial of five gang members. The trial offered a detailed look at a drug gang considered to be one of the most violent in Baltimore's recent history -- a group that prosecutors say used the name to capitalize on the violent reputation of Jamaican drug dealers.

Police have linked the group to the firebombing of a Baltimore City Housing Authority police car as well as to three murders, including the killing of a Dundalk man who was mistaken for an undercover police officer.

Aladekoba and Orlando Demon Duggins, another gang member identified as the gunman, were convicted yesterday of use of a firearm in relation to a drug-trafficking crime -- the murder. There was no applicable federal murder statute, but their crime carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"This case is the first major federal and state joint investigation into gang violence in Baltimore and represents only the beginning of law enforcement's combined efforts to reduce violence on our streets," said U.S. Attorney Lynne Battaglia in a ,, written statement.

The case was handled by the Safe Streets Violent Crime Task Force, which formed in 1992 to team investigators from federal and local agencies on violent crime cases. Baltimore police, the city's Housing Authority, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI collaborated on the investigation.

"This case goes a long way to demonstrate how these agencies can join together to fight violence," said Bruce Ash, an FBI agent who oversees the task force.

Among the 50 witnesses who testified during the trial were former members of the gang, who described a 24-hour drug shop in the stairwells of high-rise apartment buildings at the Lexington Terrace and Lafayette Courts public housing complexes.

The group employed a sizable crew of lookouts, gunmen and carriers of drugs and money who pulled in as much as $40,000 a day by selling jumbo capsules of heroin at $10 apiece. The leaders also were notorious for threatening and beating workers they suspected of stealing from the operation. The gang was linked to the deaths of two of its own members.

Jurors began deliberating Thursday afternoon and returned their verdict just before noon yesterday.

The Aladekoba brothers and two of their lieutenants, 20-year-old Duggins and 19-year-old Shawn Hickman, were convicted of conspiring to distribute heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

A fifth defendant, 27-year-old Mayo Bennett, was acquitted on drug conspiracy charges.

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