Undercover police officers on the Carroll County Drug Task Force ended a 10-month investigation this week with the arrest of 18 people, including a Sykesville woman they identified as the ringleader of the operation.
Evelyn Esposito, 43, of the 5000 block of Stone Mill Court was arrested Tuesday and charged with eight counts of drug manufacturing, and possession and distribution of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, Ecstasy and prescription drugs. She is being held at the Carroll County Detention Center on $250,000 bail, pending a bail review hearing today.
Police said they seized $19,000 in cash, 58 ounces of cocaine worth $133,000, 3 pounds of marijuana worth $15,000, a loaded .38-caliber semiautomatic handgun, 181 tablets of Ecstasy worth more than $1,000, and several thousand prescription pills.
Authorities also said they confiscated 12 vehicles and three motorcycles.
"This has been a very successful and very intense covert drug operation," said Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes. "This once more sends forth the message that Carroll County is an unattractive jurisdiction to ply this insidious trade."
At the Westminster state police barracks yesterday, officers covered two tables with cocaine, pills and marijuana sealed in clear bags. . Neatly stacked bills were also placed in clear bags as part of the evidence police said they recovered.
Esposito was one of 18 people, including four juveniles, arrested on various drug charges after police executed 11 search-and-seizure warrants in Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties.
Those arrested on conspiracy and distribution charges include: Richard Sanford, 48, of Newburg Avenue, Catonsville; Paula Amodei, 41, of Stone Mill Court, Sykesville; Michael Rice, 46, and Colleen Rice, 47, both of Second Avenue, Sykesville; Joseph A. Knapp, 18, of Buckhorn Road, Sykesville; Joshua Mason, 23, of Brangels Road, Marriottsville; Michael Snyder, no age given, of Tuscany Road, Ellicott City; and Kimberly Scardina, 39, of Harrowsmith Court, Hampstead.
Arrested on distribution and possession with intent to distribute charges: Michael Keeney, 25, of Carroll Street, Baltimore.
Arrested on possession with intent to distribute charges: Barbara Knapp, 53, the mother of Joseph A. Knapp.
Arrested on possession with intent to distribute and possession charges: Alisha Lee Luna, 34, address unknown.
Arrested on possession charges: Ronald Spagna, 51, of West Montauk Highway, Hampton Bay, N.Y.
Sanford, Amodei, Michael and Colleen Rice, Mason, Snyder and Spagna were being held yesterday in the Carroll County jail. The other Carroll County residents posted bail and were released. The status of the other suspects could not be determined yesterday.
More than 60 police officers from the county, state and local police departments participated throughout the investigation.
Carroll County prosecutor Hope Hancock, who is assigned to the drug task force, said the drug operation had been going on for years, but the task force opened its investigation in November.
Charging documents detail several transactions that took place among the alleged supplier, Esposito; the alleged dealers and the undercover police officers.
Documents showed that the task force began wire taps two months ago on the suspects' homes and cell phone lines revealing details of alleged drug trafficking. The operation was focused mostly in the Eldersburg area, Barnes said
More charges are expected pending lab results verifying the types of prescription drugs, some of which were labeled as the painkiller Percocet, Hancock said.
Maj. Thomas Long of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office said the arrests would also stem crimes that drug addiction can spawn.
"This also combats the crimes used to support a drug habit - shoplifting and theft," he said.