By Van Smith
Published in City Paper, June 10, 2009
The phone rang at 6:59 a.m. on a Friday morning, just as 53-year-old Baltimore City wastewater plant technician Calvin Renard Robinson was heading for the shower, court records show. The March 20 call was from 46-year-old Kevin Glasscho, an ex-con now accused in Maryland as the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) prison gang’s heroin broker.
“You wanted a whole dollar or the half?” Glasscho asked. “Uh, it don’t matter,” Robinson answered, adding, “You can bring me the, um—bring it to me in two halves.” When Glasscho explained that it would be less work if he gave Robinson the “whole dollar.” Robinson agreed, and the two planned to meet after Robinson got out of the shower.
At the time, neither man knew that this exchange, and similarly cryptic phone calls this past spring between Robinson and Glasscho, was being recorded by law enforcers, who believed the men were using code to arrange drug deals. But in mid-April, the conversations wound up as part the evidence for two federal criminal conspiracy cases against 25 alleged members of the BGF. The gang is accused of a variety of crimes, including violence, drug-dealing, smuggling contraband, and extortion. Robinson, thanks to the intercepted phone conversations with Glasscho and the resulting surveillance, is charged with buying drugs wholesale from Glasscho.
At his first court appearances in April, Robinson had the unassuming look of the workaday bureaucrat he is, with his clean-shaven head, trimmed mustache, and glasses. Robinson’s defense attorney, Steven Wrobel, had on hand Robinson’s city Department of Public Works (DPW) supervisor, Dorothy Harris, ready to testify in support of letting Robinson go free pending trial. But the judge decided that Robinson, who has drug convictions dating from the early 1990s and was found with two handguns and ammunition when he was arrested April 15 in the BGF take-down (“Guerrilla Warfare,” Mobtown Beat, April 22, 2009), poses too much of a risk to public safety should he leave jail.
In addition to the guns—a Smith & Wesson .357 with six cartridges and a North American Arms .22 with four cartridges—court records show agents took from Robinson’s home three cell phones, a Blackberry mobile device, three sets of keys, and numerous photographs.
Robinson has owned his North Mount Street home—1102, right across Riggs Avenue from the Baltimore Police Department’s Western District station house—since 2000. Land records show his principal residence is not there, but south by about a dozen or so blocks, at 1223 Hollins St., a half-block west of Hollins Market. Robinson purchased the Hollins Street property in 2008; open for business there is the In and Out Boutique, the trade name for a clothing shore owned by Robinson’s company, Jo-Cal LLC.
Robinson’s In and Out Boutique opened on a block of Hollins Street that has long been known for drug-dealing activity (“Best Open-Air Drug Market,” Mobtown Beat, Sept. 16, 2003). In 2007 it was targeted in a major federal enforcement effort called Operation Smackdown, which closed down a $20,000 per day heroin operation there.