Crime Watch


November 02, 2006

Last 2 in arms case enter not-guilty pleas

The last of 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 appeared in a Baltimore courtroom yesterday.

The suspected arms dealers were arrested late last month after an elaborate sting operation in which alleged representatives of 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 defendants - Haniffa Bin Osman, 55, of Singapore; Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, 36, of Sri Lanka; and Erick Wotulo, 60, Haji Subandi, 69, Reinhard Rusli, 34, and Helmi Soedirdja, 33, of Indonesia - were apprehended in Guam and extradited to Baltimore for trial. All six remain in federal custody, prosecutors said yesterday.

Yesterday, Rusli and Soedirdja entered not-guilty pleas before U.S. District Magistrate Judge James K. Bredar. Varatharasa must return to court this week because no interpreter was available for yesterday's hearing. Subandi entered a not-guilty plea to similar charges last week.

Arraignments for the remaining defendants are expected to be held this week, prosecutors said.

Matthew Dolan

Man sentenced in ATM thefts

A member of a gang of thieves accused of breaking into or stealing more than 30 ATMs since 2003 received a prison sentence yesterday of more than two years in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Eric Thomas 48, of Bowie, who had pleaded guilty, was sentenced to the prison term followed by three years of supervised release for bank larceny and aiding and abetting bank larceny in connection with an ATM theft in Bowie. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake also ordered that Thomas make restitution of $423,388, and allowed the amount to be paid in $50 monthly installments after his release.

Thomas and five others were indicted March 1 on a charge of conspiracy to commit bank larceny by stealing several ATMs throughout Maryland and Virginia.

Three other defendants pleaded guilty in the case this spring, pledging to cooperate with federal agents in their investigation. Through their help and the cooperation of witnesses, authorities said, they identified the leader of the saw-wielding gang as Tracy Fletcher, believed to be Thomas' stepson who was arrested in Virginia in December and charged with conspiracy to commit bank robberies.

The court in Spotsylvania County, Va., ordered Fletcher to stay in his mother's home on electronic monitoring, but he fled, prosecutors said. He was caught in June in Tennessee.

In a new indictment against Fletcher released yesterday, prosecutors said he was responsible for stealing funds from three ATMs in Florida.

Matthew Dolan

9 charged in high school fight

Nine Edgewood High School students were arrested yesterday morning and charged with disorderly conduct after a fight broke out in a school hallway, police said.

The incident started when two girls began fighting about 7:30 a.m., said Robert B. Thomas, a spokesman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office. As a deputy with the agency's school policing unit attempted to break up the fight, other students became involved, Thomas said.

Eight of those arrested were girls, ranging in age from 14 to 17.

Thomas said the fight might have stemmed from an incident the previous night, when five juveniles were arrested after a fight at Grempler Way and Brookside Drive in Edgewood.

The students were released to the custody of their parents, pending further action by the Department of Juvenile Services. The students also face disciplinary action by the Harford County school board.

Justin Fenton

Woman charged in stabbing

A Westminster woman charged with stabbing a man with whom she lives was being held at the Carroll County Detention Center on $30,000 bond, police said yesterday.

State police discovered Edward A. Dobbie, 42, bleeding from a stab wound to the shoulder about 6 p.m. Tuesday outside the home in the 1100 block of Gorsuch Road. Dobbie told police Stephani S. Jones, 27, had threatened him with a knife. Police said they found a knife on the ground and arrested the woman.

Dobbie was listed in serious condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Laura McCandlish

3 shooting victims identified

Three men who were fatally shot in Baltimore on Tuesday night in two apparently unrelated incidents were identified yesterday by city police, but no arrests have been made.

In one attack, Johnathan Savage, 35, of the 800 block of E. 41st St. and Antonio Williams, 32, of the 3700 block of Trail Wood Court in Abingdon were standing in the 4100 block of Elkader Road in Ednor Gardens about 8 p.m. when an unknown assailant shot Savage in the chest and Williams in the stomach, police said.

Both were taken by ambulances to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where Savage died at 9:20 p.m., and Williams died at 11 p.m., police said.

The night's other victim, Gregory A. Welsh, was able to tell police that he was attacked about 6 p.m. near his home in the 6000 block of Marluth Ave. in Northeast Baltimore. Welsh said he was attacked by two men he knew and that one shot him in the neck and the other struck him in the face with a bottle.

Annie Linskey and Richard Irwin

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