Joppa drug kingpin awaits sentencing

April 24, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

In an article in the April 24 edition of The Sun for Harford County, William George Fender, one of 18 people linked by police to a Joppa drug operation, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana, not cocaine.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Isabel Velez, the convicted 53-year-old matriarch of East Coast drug kingpins, sits in the county Detention Center awaiting sentencing on cocaine charges that could bring the Joppa woman a 200-year prison term and $1.2 million in fines.

As a Circuit Court jury ended the nine-day trial Tuesday after only three hours of deliberation, Velez muttered to her courtroom Spanish translator, "Jesus, forgive them for they know not what they do," a deputy sheriff said.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Even in mid-trial, Velez appeared resigned to going to prison, arriving at the courthouse with suitcases.

She was the only one of 18 persons who chose to stand trial on cocaine charges after a Harford grand jury handed down indictments in March 1992.

Sixteen of the others, including Velez's daughter and two sons, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and received prison or jail sentences ranging from 10 years to supervised probation, said H. Scott Lewis, an assistant state's attorney who prosecuted each case.

Velez's defense was virtually nonexistent after Mr. Lewis introduced into evidence about 40 tapes containing many of the more than 2,700 conversations that investigators secured after getting a warrant to wiretap the phone at the Velez residence in the 1800 block of Shirley Ave.

Mr. Lewis painstakingly elicited testimony from undercover members of the Harford County Joint Narcotics Task Force who testified that conversations, mostly in Spanish, were about "tickets," "tires," "rims" and "pants," all coded references to cocaine.

Michael Schaech, a private Bel Air attorney serving as a public defender for Velez, tried to convince the jury that "it is possible" that his client really was talking about getting concert tickets.

"Where are the receipts for all these tickets, tires, rims and pants?" Mr. Lewis asked in rebuttal.

After the panel of seven men and five women had returned its verdict, Judge Stephen M. Waldron revoked Velez's $50,000 bond and ordered her jailed without bond.

The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set her sentencing for June 6.

Court records, police reports and trial testimony indicated that Velez's cocaine operation, which had ties to Florida and New York, was the target of a Jan. 10, 1992, raid by the task force.

Velez faces at least 20 and up to 40 years in prison without parole and a $1 million fine for the drug kingpin conviction, Mr. Lewis said. According to state law, the sentences for the other eight counts, totaling a maximum 165 years and $220,000 in fines, must be imposed consecutive to the kingpin penalties, Mr. Lewis said.

In addition to the drug kingpin conviction, the jury also found Velez guilty on four separate counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to distribute cocaine in a school zone, conspiracy to bring cocaine into the state, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute it and maintaining a common nuisance.

Following is a list of the others who the task force linked to the Velez drug operation, how they pleaded and the sentences they received.

* Rosemarie Cooper, also known as Rosemarie Velez, 25. She pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, was sentenced to 15 years with all but two years suspended and placed on three years of supervised probation.

* Bobby Ray Cornett, 32. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, was sentenced to 10 years with all but 42 months suspended and placed on two years of supervised probation.

* Mary Catherine Cornett, 30. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and was given 18 months unsupervised probation.

* Manuel Delgado, 32. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, was sentenced to 20 years with all but six months suspended and placed on five years of supervised probation.

* Robert Lee Dyer, 34. He pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine, was sentenced to 10 years with all but 18 months suspended and placed on three years of supervised probation.

* William George Fender, 24. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, was sentenced to five years with three years suspended, placed on four years of supervised probation and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

* Eddie Goodfellow, also known as Earl Edward Goodfellow III, 28. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, was sentenced to 10 years with all but 18 months suspended and placed on three years of supervised probation.

* Samuel Green, 20. His case came to court on June 3, 1992, but the state's attorney's office chose not to prosecute him.

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