Jury convicts “Richie Rich” Wilford in cocaine conspiracy
After a prolonged and Herculean effort to claim the government unconstitutionally monitored his movements to build its drug case against him, Richard Anthony “Richie Rich” Wilford yesterday was found guilty of cocaine-conspiracy charges by a federal jury. He now faces the maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison, at his sentencing hearing, scheduled for Feb. 20.
Wilford’s legal arguments consumed much court attention, including three days of motions hearings before U.S. District judge Ellen Hollander, who issued two written opinions – a 61-page one and a 10-page one – finding that his contentions almost entirely lacked merit.
Wilford, Hollander wrote, contended that law enforcers’ “warrantless use of GPS tracking technology violated his Fourth Amendment rights,” as did “the pinging of his cellular phone,” which he claimed was done without legal basis, and thus he sought to suppress the evidence derived from such tactics. Hollander found that only in one circumstance – the tracking of Wilford’s vehicles while parked in the garage at his Elkton home – called for suppression, but also pointed out that the agents were interested in the vehicles only when they were on the move, not when they were in the garage.
The high-volume drug-trafficking activities of Wilford and his associates, who previously pleaded guilty, were sprawling. They brought cocaine to Maryland in trucks and hollowed-out desktop computers, with 136 kilograms in a tractor-trailer being seized by authorities. Among the assets the government took from defendants in the case were about $3.5 million in cash (including $1.6 million taken from a house in Randallstown), $600,000 worth of jewelry, 23 vehicles, six pieces of real estate in Georgia, and some expensive electronics. The probe also turned up ties to a Baltimore City district court commissioner and a man working in City Hall.
Wilford’s history in Baltimore’s drug game is long and high-level. His first federal conspiracy case, brought in 1992 when he was 19, included legendary gangsters Walter Louis Ingram and Walter Lee Powell, both of whom also were targeted recently by the feds. After serving a five-year prison stint in that case, in 2001 Wilford earned another two years in prison for heroin.
Ingram recently wrote a letter to City Paper, citing Wilford’s arguments about unconstitutional government overreach as being similar to his own.
In 2008, Wilford emerged relatively unscathed as a drug-probe drama involving a dirty cop, Mark Lunsford, swirled around him, scooping up Querida Lewis, a women with ties to notorious Baltimore felon Milton Tillman, Jr., and several other Baltimore drug dealers, including Gilbert Watkins, Donta Dotson, Dante Chavez, and Mark Anthony Hawkins.
Given this background, Wilford’s decision to take his current case before a jury may prove, at sentencing, to have been a mistake. With priors like his and no plea agreement, Wilford may be looking at a very long future in federal prison starting when he’s already in his early 40s.
Update: A reader pointed out, and court records confirm, that Wilford was convicted on his 41st birthday.