Key witness details actions of crime ring

January 31, 2003|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

The central witness in a high-profile federal racketeering case concluded his testimony yesterday as jurors continued hearing evidence against a group of area men accused of using Baltimore nightclubs to disguise a violent crime ring.

Louis W. Colvin, a convicted heroin dealer who authorities say became one of the group's two leaders when he left federal prison in the late 1990s, gave jurors a firsthand account of criminal acts that included drug dealing, arson, insurance fraud and attempted murder.

Colvin testified that he had been both an actor and a victim in the enterprise. He also described being shot in the arm in September 2001 after his relationship with other members of the group broke down in a dispute over profits.

His split from the others became final last fall, when Colvin pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to one racketeering count and agreed as part of a deal with prosecutors to testify against the five men now on trial, including his longtime friend and alleged crime partner, James E. Gross Sr.

During three days of testimony, Colvin described business dealings with some well-known Baltimore names. Colvin said he and Gross turned to former state Sen. Michael B. Mitchell Sr. for help creating an "alibi" when questions arose about whether Colvin and Gross - both convicted felons - were operating the Baltimore County nightclub Strawberry's 5000.

After his eventual split from Gross, Colvin testified that he entered a new business partnership with former heavyweight boxing champion Hasim S. Rahman to operate the now-closed downtown club Emineo at 10 S. Calvert St.

Neither Mitchell nor Rahman is charged in the case, and both men have distanced themselves from Colvin and Gross. At the same time, defense attorneys for the men on trial have sought to portray Colvin as the mastermind behind any alleged criminal activity who is falsely placing blame on others to get a lighter prison sentence.

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