Man accused of role in robbery spree in city

March 16, 2004|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A 41-year-old man is accused by city police of belonging to a group of thieves who dressed like police officers and bail bondsmen, and robbed more than 100 people across Baltimore during a monthlong crime spree, detectives said yesterday.

Detectives are trying to piece together the scope of the robberies, many of which were not reported because the victims were drug dealers or others associated with the narcotics trade, police said.

Detective Alan Savage of the city police robbery unit said officers arrested Thomas J. Covell of the 3400 block of Forest Park Ave. on Friday and charged him with robbery and assault.

Covell has also been charged with attempted murder in a Northeast Baltimore shooting Feb. 28 and is being held without bail at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

No one else has been charged in the robberies.

Savage said the robberies began early last month when a group of men began seeking fugitives to turn them over to licensed bail bondsmen for a fee. The men soon decided it was easier to shake down drug dealers and others on street corners, Savage said.

Wearing black fatigues, fake police badges around their necks and gun belts that included expandable batons, the men would drive up to a corner, jump out and force people to get on their knees or put their hands against a wall. The robbers would steal the victims' cash and other valuables, then drive away in a small sport utility vehicle, Savage said.

Detectives said they got their first break when a man told police he had been robbed by police officers who jumped out of a sport utility vehicle on a Northeast Baltimore street in mid-February. The victim gave police the license plate number of a blue Ford Escape, Savage said.

Detectives tracked down the sport utility vehicle and arrested Covell, Savage said.

Covell told police that he and his group had committed more than 100 robberies, Savage said, but police could find reports on only a handful of similar crimes because the gang targeted those who were not likely to call police.

Police charged Covell in a Feb. 8 robbery in which three men jumped out of a blue sport utility vehicle in the 1400 block of Mountmor Court about 5:30 a.m., Savage said.

The men forced a 23-year-old to get on his knees and place his hands on his head, acting as if they were checking to determine whether the man was a fugitive, Savage said.

The victim told police that the robbers fled with $140 in cash.

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