Baltimore cops’ ongoing push on Black Guerrilla Family boosts already prodigious federal effort
Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks called the Nov. 7 take-down of 48 Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison-gang members and associates in Baltimore (pictured; see full gallery), where they face state-court drug-dealing indictments involving 10 murders over eight years, “potentially one of Baltimore law enforcement’s biggest gang busts ever.” In terms of defendant volume in a single operation, it may be – especially since another 20 BGF-related suspects were being sought in another round of raids this morning.
But the main takeaway from this development is that local law enforcers, under the guidance of Baltimore police commissioner Anthony Batts and Baltimore state’s attorney Gregg Bernstein, are now complementing the already active federal BGF caseload with their own big push. Maryland’s federal docket involving BGF defendants at the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse, after all, is growing apace, concentrating both on correctional settings, where the prison gang is well established, and on street-level dealings, including its drug suppliers and armed robbers.
On Nov. 7, for instance, the same day as the high-profile take-down in the Barclay and Greenmount West neighborhoods, BGF member Antonio “Tank Top” Davis got nearly 25 years in prison for gun and drug crimes after a jury was convinced he joined a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) set-up to rob a drug dealer.
Davis and his co-defendants Rodney “Hot Rod” Proctor and Sean “Cracks” Thornton, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorneys Office, were drug-trafficking BGF members who also robbed drug dealers and kidnapped their children for ransom. In the current case, they planned to commit the robbery with “Fats,” the person who hatched the scheme – and then they intended to rob “Fats” of his share.
Davis had previously emerged in a BGF probe into “field commander” Kimberly McIntosh and “citywide commander” Todd “Donnie” Duncan in 2009 and 2010, when court records say Davis was present at McIntosh’s Homewood St. home for the disciplinary beating of a BGF member – a DEA informant, it turned out – who was accused of stealing gang funds.
Keith Corey “Iddy” Jones, meanwhile, was recently accused in federal court of being a source of drugs for Davis and fellow BGF member Robert “Dill” Tillman. The charges stem from transactions that allegedly occurred at the Royal Farms Store on Key Highway and in Federal Hill. Jones is said to have stepped into the BGF-supplier vacuum left when local youth-football coach Harry Hicks was murdered in front of his wife and children in 2011. Jones pleaded not guilty on Oct. 17.
Like Davis, meanwhile, Greyling Chase was named in the 2009/2010 DEA investigation, which identified him as one of seven BGF members working under Duncan. In a case similar to Davis’, the DEA set up Chase and co-defendant Rodney Ellis to rob a drug dealer. The wiretaps have Chase considering in detail the possible need to kill the robbery target, saying he might have to “burn the nigger” and then “go somewhere and dig a hole” to “throw his ass in.” Chase and Ellis have pleaded not guilty, and the speedy-trial clock for their case was reset on Nov. 5, with a trial scheduled for next April.
Anther alleged source of supply for the BGF, Suraj Olasunkanmi Tairu, was charged with heroin distribution in federal court on Sept. 12. Tairu, who has a prior 1990s federal conviction in New York for participating in a scheme to import heroin from Africa, has a landscaping-and-home-improvement company in Laurel called Mariwo Enterprises.
The charging document describes circumstances leading to a June meeting between Tairu and a “long-time, high ranking member of the BGF” in the parking lot of the Rite Aid store at 300 N. Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd. Immediately after the meeting, the BGF member’s car was pulled over and police seized an “egg shaped object” containing an ounce of heroin – the same kind of packaging frequently used by internal smugglers who swallow egg-shaped heroin packages and board commercial airline flights bound for the U.S. from Africa – though the BGF member was not arrested.
Meanwhile, a federal heroin-conspiracy indictment unsealed in Sept. against 13 people, including three not yet arrested, includes a familiar BGF name: Marlow Bates, who previously pleaded guilty in federal BGF indictments that came down in 2009.
The son of another Marlow Bates, made famous thanks to the Marlo Stanfield character in The Wire, Bates last year finished his prison sentence for the BGF case and days later was re-arrested for stealing a Maryland Department of Corrections badge, though the charges were subsequently dropped. Now he’s charged in a conspiracy indictment that seeks forfeiture of exotic high-end vehicles, such as a Bentley, an Aston Martin, and a 2007 Mercedes-Benz Brabus, which sells for $80,000 used. Properties in the The Atrium apartment building on Howard St. and near the Washington Monument allegedly were central to the conspiracy’s drug operations.
By far the most high-profile BGF case brought this year by federal law enforcers was the racketeering indictment involving BGF inmates and their enablers amongst correctional staff. Lead defendant Tavon White’s guilty plea has been followed by those of three other inmates, eight correctional officers, and two outside suppliers, while five correctional officers, four inmates, and one outside supplier still maintain their innocence. The case rattled the state’s leadership, since it exposed l0ngstanding integrity problems in Maryland’s correctional agency.
These six recent federal cases involving BGF defendants, along with the many details provided by the 2009/2010 federal BGF cases, together provide a detailed sketch of both the BGF’s street-level and prison-based operations. How the recent and ongoing state cases fit into this established picture, however, remains to be seen.