Police suspect ads have sinister intent Newspaper notices might be aimed at drug-case informants

Sources well-protected'

March 12, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Amid the cheery birthday poems and flowery remembrances of the personal ads in the Annapolis Capital, a series of cryptic, even sinister notices began appearing last week.

Police are investigating three classifieds apparently addressed to confidential police informants in a recent federal drug case that culminated in the arrests of alleged members of one of the city's largest drug rings. Officials believe the ads are meant to intimidate.

Investigators have identified the person they believe is responsible for the ads, city police said yesterday. But they are mystified that their suspect, whose name is being withheld by police, appears not to be connected to last week's arrest of Curtis Allan Spencer as an alleged drug lord.

Spencer, indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base, was freed March 5 to the custody of his sister in Arnold to await trial. The first ad appeared that day.

The ads in the newspaper's classified section under the headings "In Memoriam" and "Happy Ads" read like this:

"Happy Birthday Ciel CI-135 and Ricky CI-136 From your friends In Annapolis may you see many more Good Job 3/5/63," which ran March 5.

"Congratulations on your marriage Ricky-CI-363 and Sylvia-CI-136 on 3/6/98 from your family in Annapolis City. May it be long and sweet," which ran Friday.

"In Memory of Sylvia Sharpe CI-348; Ricky Blake CI-363; Rico Medly CI-148; Charles CJ Moulden CI-158. Gone but not forgotten, and the pain is still there. Your family in Annapolis," which ran Tuesday.

The numbers and the letters "CI" are used to identify confidential informants in state warrants and affidavits. Such sources are never named. The numbers are in documents available to the public.

Police sources close to the investigation said yesterday that the numbers used in the ads are numbers that law enforcement agencies have used in state affidavits issued during the past year.

"I'm not going to confirm or deny that the people named are informants," said Lt. Stan M. Malm, commander of the city police criminal investigative unit. "But we believe [the ads] to be designed to intimidate witnesses or potential witnesses in the case."

The mother of one person named in the ads, who asked not to be identified, said yesterday, "We don't have a clue why someone would put his name in the paper. We're scared because we don't want him mistakenly connected to all this. We don't understand, but we are worried."

Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson said he is confident that witnesses and informants in the case are, and will, stay safe. But he added that the ads are being taken seriously. "Our sources are well-protected and very comfortable," Johnson said. "We've looked at this very carefully. We are not overly concerned about what anyone chooses to put into the paper about who the sources may be, but it appears to be a fishing expedition.

"And we don't want to help them go through the process of elimination," Johnson said.

Repeated telephone calls to the Capital's managing editor, Tom Marquardt, and to advertising manager Sue Murphy were not returned yesterday.

Spencer could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Annapolis police have long been after the drug ring Spencer allegedly led, which they say has controlled Annapolis' public housing communities for more than 25 years. Police say it's responsible for almost 80 percent of the cocaine base sales in Annapolis, estimated at $20,000 per week.

During the past two years, city police said, detectives started receiving more tips about the group, and they began aggressively identifying sellers and lieutenants. Then, last fall, when they felt they had enough information, police asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration office in Baltimore for help. On March 2 and 3, city police and DEA agents served state search warrants at 12 locations and arrested 18 people, including Spencer. Police also seized eight vehicles, three handguns, 6 ounces of crack cocaine and 1 ounce of marijuana.

Spencer, two officials in the Friends of Black Annapolitans political group that he founded, and two others were indicted on federal drug violations. The other 13 face state charges.

A magistrate judge released Spencer from jail because of his public activism, his close ties to his family in Annapolis and his mostly clean criminal record. Spencer is well-known for lending rent money and paying for funerals. He also bought athletic shoes for children, sponsored teams in city recreation leagues and coached a basketball team.

Spencer has called his arrest "a political conspiracy" because of his political group's open criticism of city police over the years.

Pub Date: 3/12/98

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