Southeast raid breaks cocaine ring, police say

August 05, 1994|By Peter Hermann and Joel Obermayer | Peter Hermann and Joel Obermayer,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writer Michael James contributed to this article.

A team of 150 federal and city drug agents raided two dozen Southeast Baltimore homes last night, breaking up a crack cocaine ring they said was run by three Dominican men who had ties to a Central American drug cartel.

Although about 30 people were arrested, the primary targets of Operation Clean Sweep were the Veras brothers, Miguel and David, both 29, and Juan Liberato, 34, who police said were using an auto body shop on Holabird Avenue as a front for their cocaine operation.

Each of the men has been charged under Maryland's drug kingpin statute, police said.

Federal agents said the three men used the business, called BBS Body Shop, to carve out secret compartments in automobiles so that bricks of crack cocaine could be shipped covertly to areas around Southeast Baltimore.

Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Larry E. Hornstein said the three men headed "a major Dominican-based cocaine organization" with ties to Central America and New York City. Authorities said that the ring is also under investigation for allegedly putting out a murder contract on an undercover Baltimore police officer, Sgt. Chris Streett of the city's Southeastern District drug enforcement unit.

Last night's raids, led by Baltimore police and city Housing Authority police, as well as FBI, DEA and firearms agents, were focused on the Perkins Homes public housing project and homes on several streets within a few blocks of Patterson Park, ** authorities said.

Twenty-four homes were raided, including one in the 500 block ** of S. Patterson Park Ave. allegedly used as the ring's stash house, police said. In that home, officers found two handguns and three brick kilos of crack cocaine -- worth about $25,000 each -- hidden under a kitchen sink, Agent Hornstein said.

Officers also found numerous wrappers that were apparently used to cover other bricks of cocaine that were probably sold, authorities said.

"To get three kilos in Maryland is a great bust. In Maryland, these guysare considered high-level traffickers," Agent Hornstein said. Investigators are trying to determine how the drugs were brought into the United States, he said.

Anne Arundel County police drug agents also raided a house in Pioneer City that was used as a stash house and seized about $6,500 in cash and more drugs, police said.

Officers had been doing undercover surveillance of the Dominican men for weeks, police said. They decided to put them out of business yesterday after learning that the Veras brothers were allegedly planning to flee the country because one of them was wanted in New Jersey on drug charges, authorities said.

Police had arrest warrants for 46 people, many of whom are accused of buying the ring's crack cocaine but who may not have been directly involved in the operation.

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