City police seize 200 pounds of marijuana

5 are arrested

Business break-in leads to discovery of drugs, guns

January 19, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A routine call for a suspected break-in at a business near the southern edge of Baltimore led police to 200 pounds of marijuana that detectives believe was smuggled here from Mexico.

The drugs, worth an estimated $300,000 on the street, were discovered Monday afternoon by a maintenance man who dialed 911 after finding a broken lock. The office is in a strip of businesses in the 3100 block of Lorena Ave.

Police arrested five people Monday night who leased the office under the name Astec Inc., which was supposed to print T-shirts, at two rowhouses in West and Northeast Baltimore. Officers said they seized a Tec-9 pistol, an AR-15 and an AK-47 assault rifle.

Lt. Jesse Oden said that the suspects have ties to Jamaica. He said police were surprised to find four 50-pound bails of marijuana, two of the weapons, a 150-pound-capacity scale and $10,000 in plain view in the 16-by-70-square-foot office. The AR-15 rifle was found in one suspect's house.

"There were no T-shirts in the place," Oden said. "The smell of marijuana was strong. They tried to disguise the odor with perfume and turpentine."

Those charged yesterday were: Pauline Schloss, 46; Victor Schloss, 41; and Hugh Hamilton, 35, all of the 1500 block of Wadsworth Way in Northeast Baltimore. Also arrested were Elaine Louise Fletcher, 59, and Percival Fletcher, 48, both of the 2400 block of Baker St. in West Baltimore.

All five were charged with 11 drug distribution and gun possession counts. Officer Jimmy Dease, one of the investigators, said the U.S. Attorney's office is reviewing the case to determine whether it merits federal prosecution.

Police described the seizure as significant. But it is not one of the region's largest. In 1997, federal investigators seized a ton of cocaine worth an estimated $25 million stored in a Baltimore warehouse and smuggled into the country from Central America.

Oden and Dease said the investigation into Monday's seizure and arrests is continuing, and they have no idea whether the attempted break-in is connected to the drug operation or was a coincidence.

Top police officials commended the officers involved, all of whom are in uniformed patrol and not part of a specialized drug unit. They were led by Sgt. Anthony E. Barksdale.

Police said they have traced the origin of the drugs to Mexico. They don't know yet how the marijuana crossed the border into Los Angeles, but Oden said it went from there to New Jersey by commercial airline, apparently hidden in crates containing T-shirts.

From there, Oden said the drugs were transported by boat to Baltimore and then by a rented truck to the warehouse.

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