30 nailed in Southeast Balto. drug raid

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

A team of 150 federal and city officers 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 ring is also under investigation for allegedly putting out a murder contract on an undercover Baltimore police officer.

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 guys are 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.

Sgt. Chris Streett of the city's Southeastern District drug enforcement unit said last night that he learned in July that the Veras brothers allegedly put out a contract for his murder.

Police said they arrested Mr. Liberato about 12:30 p.m. outside the alleged stash house on Patterson Park Avenue, then began tailing the Veras brothers.

Officers arrested them about 2 p.m. at the Southeastern District police station, where they went to inquire about Mr. Liberato, police said.

"They heard we had raids going on. They came in to the station to see if one of their friends had been busted," said Maj. John Gavrilis, the district commander. "We had arrest warrants out on them, so we locked them up."

The Perkins Homes project is a low-rise public housing development that has seen an upsurge in drug activity in recent months, most likely due to drug sweeps by the authorities at other housing projects, police said.

"The drug activity picked up in Perkins after we did similar operations in Flag House Courts and Lafayette Courts [high-rise public housing]," said city Housing Authority Police Maj. Cornelius J. Hairston III. "Now we are going to concentrate on the low rises."

Jerome Brown, 22, lives at the Flag House Courts project and was at Perkins yesterday visiting when dozens of police cars swarmed into the area.

"Oh man, it looked like a war on drugs," said Mr. Brown, who described himself as a recovering heroin user. He said he is now attending Coppin State College, where he hopes to major in engineering.

"It's a crying shame how drugs influence our young men for fast money," he said.

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