Joppa woman guilty of running drug operation

April 20, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

A 53-year-old Joppa woman who was charged as the kingpin of a lucrative cocaine operation was found guilty yesterday on nine counts in Harford Circuit Court.

Isabel Velez of the 1800 block of Shirley Ave. stood without emotion as the panel of seven men and five women returned its verdict in the 11-day trial after less than three hours of deliberation.

Judge Stephen M. Waldron ordered a presentence investigation and said he will set a date for sentencing later.

He revoked the defendant's bond, and she will be held at the county Detention Center until sentencing.

Velez could be fined $1 million and sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison without parole for the drug kingpin conviction, H. Scott Lewis, an assistant state's attorney, said.

She could also receive maximum sentences for the other eight related counts totaling 165 years in prison and fines of $220,000. These would have to be imposed consecutive to the kingpin penalties, Mr. Lewis said.

Yesterday's conviction was the culmination of a grand jury indictment on March 3, 1992, in which Velez and 15 other defendants, including her daughter, Rosemarie Cooper, also known as Rosemarie Velez, and two sons, Rafael and Luis, were charged.

The other defendants pleaded guilty and have been sentenced, Mr. Lewis said.

Isabel Velez and the others were arrested in January 1992 when the Harford County Joint Narcotics Task Force raided the Velez home in the 1800 block of Shirely Ave. and seized two ounces of cocaine worth $5,600, police said.

The raid followed a three-month investigation during which task force members obtained warrants, set up wiretaps and monitored more than 2,700 telephone calls to and from the Velez residence.

Task force investigators explained to the jury that the word "cocaine" was not used in the taped conversations about buying, selling, ordering or picking up anything.

Investigators said repeated references to "tickets," "tires," "rims" and "pants" actually meant buying or selling cocaine.

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