3 arrested as police break up drug ring

West Baltimore bar distribution point for city dealers, police say

Others likely to be charged

Heroin seized in car returning from trip to New York

November 22, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police have broken up a major, "high-level" drug organization that was selling large quantities of heroin and cocaine to city dealers through a West Baltimore bar, police officials said yesterday.

The center of the organization's activities was at Club Bar in the 1600 block of Laurens St., where drugs were sold that had been purchased from suppliers in New York, said Maj. Anthony G. Cannavale, who heads the department's narcotics unit.

Marvin Cantine, 39, was arrested at the bar Monday night and was charged with being a drug kingpin. He was being held at the city jail yesterday.

Police also charged two Baltimore County men. They are Ronald Williamson, 42, also known as Derrick Thomas, of the first block of Torlina Court in Woodlawn and Harold Ferguson, 26, of the 100 block of Aspenwood Way in Rosedale.

Each is accused of being linked to Cantine's organization and of possessing drugs with the intent to distribute. Both were being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center yesterday.

Cannavale said police probably will charge seven to 10 others.

Wiretap authorized

City police detectives, working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, began investigating the organization over the summer and obtained a court order to wiretap Cantine's cellular phone, police said.

Sunday, detectives intercepted a call from Cantine to Williamson, asking him to go to New York as soon as possible, police said.

The next morning, detectives intercepted a call between Cantine and his New York-based supplier, during which Cantine said Williamson was going to New York, police said.

Williamson soon called Cantine and told him he was returning to Baltimore, police said.

Detectives waited at the Maryland-Delaware line on Interstate 95 and spotted the white Mercury Sable that Williamson was driving about 10:45 a.m., police said. Police said they pulled the car over in Baltimore County and searched it, finding a hidden compartment containing about 3 kilograms of heroin.

Police said they then searched the bar, finding a .380-caliber pistol near the cash register and $7,631. Police said Cantine has been convicted at least four times of felonies involving drug charges.

In other searches related to the case, police said they seized seven cars, seven handguns and nearly $300,000, including about $125,000 in a safe deposit box at a Columbia bank.

Police said they are awaiting ballistics tests on the seized weapons to determine whether they have been used in crimes.

Cannavale said the organization was seeking to take advantage of increasing prices for drugs, including heroin, and a diminishing quality of narcotics on the streets.

Police think stepped-up enforcement at the nation's borders after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have slowed the flow of drugs into Baltimore, driving up prices and lowering quality.

The group "had a direct supply" of high-quality heroin, Cannavale said.

Mayor Martin O'Malley, Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris and State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy attended the news conference yesterday at which the arrests were announced.

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