City / County Digest

CITY / COUNTY DIGEST

October 04, 2006

Further indictments in federal arms sting

A federal grand jury in Baltimore has returned new indictments against six South Asian men accused of paying undercover customs agents in Maryland to export banned military weapons from the United States to the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

The suspected arms dealers were arrested late last week after an elaborate sting operation in which alleged representatives for the Tamil Tigers insurgents in Sri Lanka deposited $700,000 with undercover agents as a down payment for millions of dollars in sniper rifles, submachine guns and grenade launchers, officials say.

The superceding indictment includes new counts of money laundering, illegal weapons export and illegal possession of firearms.

Federal prosecutors in Maryland said the men - four from Indonesia, one from Singapore and one from Sri Lanka - have appeared in court in Guam. No plans have been approved yet to move the defendants to Maryland for trial.

Matthew Dolan

Baltimore: Open house

Historic tower opens to visitors Saturday

Members of the public - especially artists looking for studio space - are invited to an open house Saturday at Bromo Seltzer Tower in Baltimore, soon to be the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower. The open house will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 21 S. Eutaw St. Visitors will be able to tour the structure and preview the studio space, which should be available next spring. In August, city officials approved a $1.9 million financing plan to convert the structure, which dates to 1911, into more than 30 artist studios. Plans for the first two of the tower's 15 floors include a gallery and a coffee bar. Leasing information: www.promotionandarts.com.

Jill Rosen

Baltimore: State's attorney

Charges against lawyer dropped

Baltimore prosecutors have dropped solicitation of a minor charges against local attorney and Nigerian presidential hopeful Godson M. Nnaka.

Nnaka was arrested and charged in July, accused of offering to reduce, in exchange for sexual favors, his fee for a 16-year-old girl who had sought to hire him to represent her boyfriend, according to charging documents.

Prosecutors dismissed felony charges against him last month and then dropped the remaining misdemeanor charge last week on the day his trial was scheduled to begin.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office, said yesterday that prosecutors dropped charges because of "insufficient evidence" and "inconsistent statements" from the witnesses.

The girl told police that after she agreed to allow the lawyer to touch her, he took off his pants and offered her $50 for sex.

Police said one of two friends accompanying her took several photos with a disposable camera before using a pair of scissors to fend off Nnaka. The girls left the office and flagged down a police officer. Burns said yesterday that prosecutors saw the photos and that they were "of no evidentiary value."

Nnaka's attorney, Timothy M. Dixon, has said that his client was the real victim and that the teenager and her friends came to Nnaka's law office and tried to get him to pay for sex.

Julie Bykowicz

Baltimore: Health Department

Herrera named chief medical officer

Baltimore's health commissioner announced yesterday that Dr. Laura Herrera has been appointed chief medical officer for the city Health Department. Herrera is a family practitioner who has served for five years as the medical director for the Health Department's early intervention program for patients with HIV. She is a faculty member at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Herrera will oversee clinical care provided in the city's public health clinics, oversee programs and work with other organizations, says a Health Department statement.

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