Prosecutor says father, 2 sons ran 'structured' cocaine operation Baumgarten defense tries to shift blame

May 22, 1998|By Michael James NTC | Michael James NTC,SUN STAFF

The federal case against Anne Arundel County's alleged "barbershop drug dealers" entered its final phase yesterday, with a prosecutor describing John Baumgarten and his sons as businessmen in a Cape St. Claire-based drug corporation.

"They were prepared to go to extreme lengths to protect what they had built all through the 1990s," county Assistant State's Attorney M. Virginia Miles said in closing arguments in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. "There was an incredible amount of drug trafficking going on."

The Baumgartens -- John Baumgarten Sr., 54; John Jr., 34; and Anthony, 32 -- are charged with smuggling more than 110 pounds of cocaine into Anne Arundel County from 1990 to 1997. Prosecutors say their cover was a Severna Park barbershop they owned and cut hair in.

Miles, who is working with federal prosecutors on the case, said the organization smuggled more than 2 pounds of cocaine into Maryland each month from Key West, Fla. The Baumgartens own condominiums in Florida that authorities say served as the base for their Florida drug connection.

"It was a business. It was a very structured organization," Miles said. "At the very top of the heap were John Sr., John Jr. and Anthony."

The Baumgartens, through their attorneys, argue that the boss was John S. Luke of Cape St. Claire, a confessed drug courier who testified earlier in the trial against the Baumgartens. Luke has pleaded guilty to federal charges and is cooperating with prosecutors. Alan Bussard, John Baumgarten Jr.'s attorney, told the jury yesterday that Luke was the real head of the business.

"He didn't need the Baumgartens. He had his own sources," Bussard said. "Who went to Florida? Who purchased the drugs? Who cut them up? Who brought them into Maryland? In each case, it was John Luke."

Bussard also told the jurors that the government has failed to find any treasure trove of cash or valuables directly linked to drug trafficking. Some of the money that was found, Bussard said, was proceeds from real estate the Baumgartens had invested in.

The Baumgartens have stoically listened to testimony throughout the six-week trial.

Former members of the alleged organization, testifying after making plea deals with prosecutors, described threats against people the Baumgartens thought to be unfaithful. At one point the younger Baumgartens were considering a $25,000 contract killing of a federal witness but canceled it because their father thought the killing "would bring too much attention," Miles said.

John Baumgarten Sr. served time in prison in the late 1980s on cocaine charges.

If convicted, the Baumgartens could face life in prison under sentencing guidelines because the amount of drugs allegedly smuggled exceeds 110 pounds.

Pub Date: 5/22/98

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