Two men charged as city police break up `major' drug operation

Cocaine was concealed in cars, behind fish tanks

October 10, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police announced yesterday the breakup of a "major" drug organization whose members allegedly hid several kilograms of cocaine in electronically operated compartments, including two concealed by large fish tanks.

Police said they have arrested Eddie Harley, 31, of the 1600 block of N. Gay St., and Shamell Meadows, 25, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and charged them with possession with intent to distribute drugs.

"This was a large-scale operation," said Maj. Anthony G. Cannavale, who heads the department's drug unit.

Cannavale said the organization was selling drugs near North Avenue and North Gay Street and was also a "wholesale" supplier of cocaine and heroin to other city dealers. Police said the investigation was continuing and would not say whether more arrests were planned.

The case started with a tip about two months ago that led undercover detectives to the 1600 block of N. Gay St., said Detective Keith Gladstone of the city's drug enforcement unit. Detectives kept the house under surveillance and learned last week that a large shipment was being delivered, Gladstone said.

A man drove to the house Saturday in a Mercury Villager van and went inside the house, Gladstone said. When he came out, police stopped the man, who denied driving the van and gave police false identification, Gladstone said. A police dog indicated that drugs were in the van, Gladstone said.

Police obtained search warrants for the van and house and found 3.5 kilograms of "high-grade" cocaine in a hidden compartment in the van, Cannavale said.

In the house, police seized some packaging material and a small amount of cocaine, Cannavale said. But detectives found "paperwork" that led them to a house in the 2800 block of Diamond Ridge Road in Woodlawn, Gladstone said.

There, police found 3.5 kilograms of cocaine, 50 grams of heroin, $35,000 in cash, a camouflage flak jacket, three handguns and a money counter, Cannavale said. Police also found two 50-gallon fish tanks that covered compartments where the dealers stashed their drugs, Cannavale said. Opening a compartment required rubbing an electronic sensor with a magnet, which raised the fish tank about a foot, revealing the hidden space.

Police also seized a Dodge Intrepid in the 2800 block of Diamond Ridge Road that had a large hidden compartment, Cannavale said.

The compartments, which cost about $8,000 each, show the organization was sophisticated and probably trafficked large amounts of drugs between Baltimore and New York, Cannavale said.

"The utilization of these [compartments] is the highest level we've seen," Cannavale said.

Cannavale estimated the 7 kilograms of cocaine are worth between $500,000 and $1 million.

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