Kingpin drug law is applied to 3 men

Importers accused in first case of its kind could get life terms

February 03, 2000|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

In the first case of its kind, three Maryland businessmen were charged yesterday under the federal drug kingpin law with supplying Baltimore heroin dealers with supplies and chemicals needed to manufacture drugs.

The case is unique because each of the men, if convicted, could face life in prison on charges usually reserved for drug dealers. The FBI and federal prosecutors said they want to send a message that anyone linked to the drug business will face a long prison term.

"These men have been charged with the same statute that drug dealers are," said Lynne A. Battaglia, the U. S. attorney for Maryland. "Without these people and without what they're doing, you can't have drug distribution. They need to be prosecuted just as severely."

Charged in the indictments filed in U. S. District Court in Baltimore were John David Anderson, 36, of Columbia; Abdelhamid Ouaffi, 43, of Pikesville; and Ronald Eric Marshall, 40, of Aberdeen.

The indictment says that since 1994, the three men have used their Baltimore-based company, H & J Wholesale, to import 12,000 grams of mannitol from Italy. Mannitol is an over-the-counter sweetener that is illegal when knowingly sold in the commission of the drug business, prosecutors said.

Jay Mulholland, an FBI special agent who coordinated the investigation, said mannitol is the primary cutting agent for street-level heroin. The 12,000 grams that investigators allege was imported is enough to have prepared about $500 million worth of heroin, he said.

The indictment says the three men sold the mannitol and other drug paraphernalia wholesale to area retailers and to other customers nationwide through an Internet site.

They ran two retail stores in the 1800 block of N. Charles St. in Baltimore, prosecutors said. Eleven people from those stores have been indicted on charges of conspiracy to sell drug paraphernalia and aiding and abetting in the distribution of drugs. They were identified as part of a three-year investigation by the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and city police officers.

Anderson, Ouaffi, and Marshall could not be reached last night.

Other items seized

Among the items sold by H & J were thousands of items of drug-packaging materials, including glass vials, gelatin capsules and plastic bags, court papers said. Several scales and grinders also were seized, as were novelty items sold at the Charles Street shops, including crack pipes disguised as felt tip coloring markers and boxes of cheese logs that were safes for storing drugs.

Anderson, Ouaffi and Marshall also are charged with conspiracy to launder money in connection with money transferred from their Maryland businesses to a bank account in Palermo, Sicily. Federal authorities said it is unknown how much was transferred to the foreign account.

Brothers also charged

A separate indictment unsealed yesterday in connection with the case charges five other men with aiding and abetting drug distribution through a California company, Technicians Inc. That company also is suspected of importing large amounts of mannitol from Italy, the indictment said.

Some of the mannitol allegedly imported by Technicians Inc. was sold in Baltimore by two brothers, Mohammed and Cherif Elhassani, who ran Gourmet Island Natural and Diet Food Market, a retail store at 401 S. Broadway, prosecutors said.

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