Drug ring investigation leads to arrests

Cecil County family faces cocaine, gambling charges

January 23, 2004|By Sarah Merkey | Sarah Merkey,SUN STAFF

The Cecil County Drug Task Force made the latest in a series of arrests yesterday in a ring suspected of importing large amounts of cocaine into Cecil County and reselling it in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Harford County, state police said.

The arrests followed a yearlong investigation into a suspected family-operated narcotics and gambling ring in Conowingo, said Sgt. Tim McDonald of the state police.

"Some of the drug suspects had a part in the gambling ring at some level," McDonald said. The police were alerted to the illegal gambling by way of the drug ring.

Randall N. Nichols II, 21, surrendered to the task force yesterday. The charges against him include conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a large amount of cocaine and conspiracy to import cocaine into the state. He is being held without bail at the Cecil County Detention Center pending arraignment, according to the police report.

Lee Marvin Nichols, 21, of Conowingo; his mother, Shirley Ann Nichols of Conowingo; and Eric E. Allen of North East were arrested Sunday after a traffic stop in North East. Their 1996 Dodge was searched by officers from the Maryland State Police and the Cecil County sheriff's office, police said.

The search revealed about 18 ounces of suspected powder cocaine and 4 ounces of suspected powder crack cocaine, according to the police statement. The drugs have an estimated street value of $59,000, police said.

Lee Nichols was charged with possession and intent to distribute a large amount of cocaine and crack cocaine. He is being held in lieu of $75,000 bail in the Cecil County Detention Center.

Shirley Nichols, 51, was indicted on the same charges and is being held at the Cecil County Detention Center in lieu of $50,000 bail. Allen, 21, was also charged with possession and intent to distribute a large amount of cocaine and crack cocaine, and with possession of marijuana. He is being held at the Cecil County Detention Center in lieu of $50,000 bail.

The investigation began last January when a vehicle operated by Randall Nichols was stopped for a seatbelt violation. A search of a safe in the vehicle found $50,000, and an additional $12,000 was found in the trunk, according to the police report. Nichols and his three passengers denied ownership of the currency found in the safe.

The group arrested Sunday had been under surveillance during a meeting earlier that day with Richard R. Harris of Philadelphia, a recording artist known as "Filthy Rich," according to the police report. Police said they think Harris, 27, was the family's primary drug supplier, and he is wanted by police for drug-related charges.

After Sunday's arrests, the task force served several warrants, searching six residences and a bar in the 100 block of Conowingo Road in Conowingo. Small amounts of suspected cocaine and suspected marijuana were found at the bar, police said.

A search of the residence of Lee and Shirley Nichols in the 500 block of Mount Zoar Road in Conowingo led to the seizure of 4 grams of cocaine and $4,000 cash, police said.

Edward A. Nichols Jr., 34, was arrested at the Mount Zoar Road residence after officers learned that he was wanted by the Harford County sheriff's office for violation of probation.

James R. Wallace, 56, was arrested after a search of his residence in the 200 block of Doctor Jack Road in Conowingo on gambling charges that include keeping a residence for gambling and receiving money from gambling. Wallace was released on personal recognizance by a District Court commissioner.

The search of Wallace's residence resulted in the seizure of $83,550 cash and evidence of gambling, police said.

The drug ring is thought to extend beyond those mentioned in the police report, McDonald said. The task force expects to make more arrests in the coming months.

The investigation was a combined effort of the Cecil County Drug Task Force, the Cecil County sheriff's office and the Maryland State Police. The Elkton Police Department, the Newark Police Department and the Harford County Drug Task Force were also involved.

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