The Smoke Thickens: $30 million Baltimore-based pot-conspiracy case part of broader investigation

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, Mar. 21, 2012

The $30 million cross-country pot conspiracy first alleged by a Maryland federal grand jury in December 2010, involving 32-year-old Baltimore real estate developer Jeremiah Brandon Landsman and 15 others (“Smoked Out,” Mobtown Beat, Feb. 29), is connected to numerous other Maryland criminal cases, court records show. Central figures in the investigation, which involve the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Baltimore County Police Department (BCPD), are another Baltimore developer, 33-year-old Jacob Jeremiah Harryman, and 34-year-old Andrew Jin Park of Pikesville, who pleaded guilty in the mid-2000s to drug and assault charges in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Landsman, whose holdings include storage facilities and properties that house popular Baltimore nightlife destinations, had a role in at least one other recent federal case. The defendants—30-year-old Kevin Brandes of Owings Mills and California, and one of his distributors, 31-year-old Michael Borakove of Locust Point—recently pleaded guilty, admitting that they were involved in moving thousands of pounds of pot shipped to Maryland from California and Canada over the better part of the last decade—a scenario much like the one in Landsman’s pending case.

According to their guilty pleas, Landsman supplied pot to Brandes and Borakove in the early 2000s, and Harryman was one of Brandes’ “biggest customers.” The DEA “developed several cooperators” who purchased “approximately 8,000 pounds of marijuana in the course of the conspiracy” from 2002 to 2010, court documents say.

Initially, the pot in the Brandes/Borakove conspiracy was brought to Maryland from Canada by couriers, who would deliver it to Brandes at the Renaissance Hotel near Harborplace in downtown Baltimore. Later, the pot traveled to Maryland from California in a recreational vehicle, and then, after Brandes moved to California in 2009, he started shipping it by mail. “Brandes was not the ultimate source of supply,” court documents state, “but was always purchasing it from someone else.”

Brandes’ attorney, Kobie Flowers, declined to comment, and Borakove’s attorney, Andrew White, did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment. Landsman’s attorney, Barry Pollack, also declined to comment, as did the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Neither Harryman nor Park is currently facing criminal charges—at least not publicly; if they’ve been charged under seal, there’s no way to confirm it. But in recent years both have lost assets to the federal government in civil court cases, known as forfeiture proceedings, that describe them as large-scale pot dealers. Attempts to reach Harryman and Park for comment, including through lawyers who represented them in the past, were unsuccessful.

Events in November 2010—just prior to the Landsman indictment—were watershed moments in the probe. That’s when conversations between Harryman and Park were intercepted by BCPD investigators, according to a warrant that resulted in more than $125,000 being seized from Harryman’s investment accounts as ill-gotten gains. Law enforcers quickly learned that Park was one of Harryman’s main marijuana suppliers, that Harryman and Park were expecting a large shipment of pot from California that they intended to split for distribution, and that the shipment was being driven across the country by 45-year-old Robert Alan Tryson of Sykesville, court records show.

When Tryson drove into Western Maryland, he was pulled over for speeding and arrested when 90 pounds of pot were found in his car. Tryson, who had no criminal record and worked as director of credit operations for Polk Audio in Baltimore, told investigators he’d been transporting pot for Park for about a year, and would bring Park’s shipments to 33-year-old Jamel Maurice Reid at his Northway Apartments residence in Tuscany-Canterbury. Reid, court records show, has a history of arrests for illegal drugs and firearms and a 2000 drug-dealing conviction.

On Nov. 30, 2010, Reid’s apartment was raided—as were numerous other locations in the Baltimore area. City Paper has not been able to confirm the entire number of places raided and people arrested as a result of the Harryman-Park investigation. At least nine locations were raided, though, and in addition to arresting at least 21 people, the police seized large quantities of marijuana; smaller amounts of cocaine and prescription drugs; guns and ammunition; hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash; numerous cell phones, computers, and documents; and jewelry and other valuables, including vehicles. Forfeiture proceedings then were filed against real estate holdings and money seized from homes, bank accounts, and investment funds.

At least three people caught up in the Harryman-Park investigation faced federal charges: Brandes, Borakove, and 31-year-old Anthony Marcantoni, a co-defendant in Landsman’s case. Marcantoni’s most recent federal charges came when he was on supervised release after serving a prison sentence for prior federal pot-and-fraud convictions, and he is facing a possible life sentence in his current case. Marcantoni allegedly used his Owings Mills business, a martial-arts studio called Ground Control, to aid the conspiracy.

Prior to the November 2010 raids, forfeiture proceedings in federal court have stripped Harryman and Park of assets tied to large-scale pot dealing. In 2005, two properties Park owned in Roland Park and Lutherville were raided, resulting in the seizure of about 110 pounds of pot, almost $19,000 in cash, and paperwork indicating about $500,000 in drug debt owed to Park. Prosecutors settled the case, and Park got to keep the Roland Park home and money that had been seized from his bank accounts, but lost the Lutherville property and the cash found at his home.

In 2008, the federal government sought to keep $12,796 seized by Carroll County police from a house Harryman owned in Pikesville after they raided the place, along with another Harryman-owned house in Westminster. At the Westminster raid, a 243-plant pot-growing operation was in place, and one of the two men there told the raid team, “This is a lot bigger than it seems,” according to court records. Prosecutors settled the forfeiture, allowing Harryman to keep $8,000 of the seized cash.

Most recently, on March 9, federal prosecutors filed a forfeiture action to take four of Harryman’s Baltimore-area rental properties, which are held by two companies Harryman co-owns with another man, 45-year-old Mark Anthony Jones, a military veteran who lives in Owings Mills. The affidavit supporting the forfeiture, written by IRS Special Agent Matthew Hooker, explains that the two companies, First Chesapeake Investment Properties LLC and FCIP II LLC, “purchased 15 real properties between May 2007 and June 2010 for a combined cost of $622,700.”

In interviews with investigators, Harryman’s co-conspirators “stated that, along with distributing marijuana received from Harryman, they also worked for him doing construction and maintenance” on the properties, according to the forfeiture affidavit, and that he paid them in cash. The forfeiture case also seeks to allow the government to take $71,057 in cash and a Breitling Super Avenger wristwatch taken from Harryman’s residence when BCPD and IRS agents raided it in November 2010.

Jones, Harryman’s partner in First Chesapeake and FCIP II, has a luxury-transportation company, How We Roll Inc., that he says provides tour-bus services for high-profile entertainers. He was caught up in the Harryman pot probe—his condominium was one of the locations raided in November 2010—but the charges against him did not result in convictions. In a March 14 phone conversation with City Paper, Jones claims law enforcers “know I’m not part of the conspiracy.”

The raid on Jones’ condo was based on the cops’ faulty interpretation of wiretapped phone conversations he’d had with Harryman, Jones says. “They had wiretaps on Harryman’s phones,” he explains, “and because of a conversation I had with him possibly being encoded, they went on that [as a basis for the warrant]. Look, I’m from New York City, the Bronx, and I don’t talk straight English. I wasn’t talking about drugs or anything else. I mean, I can fight, I can talk shit, I have sex with many women—does that make me a bad person? I could have been talking about anything.”

Jones recently filed suit against BCPD for the return of property seized from him, including $237,000 in cash, six handguns, a cache of loaded magazines and ammunition for those guns, and a bullet-proof vest. Of the federal government’s recent move to take real-property Jones co-owns with Harryman—as well as BCPD’s response to his lawsuit, which states that the $237,000 is in the DEA’s hands “to pursue forfeiture in the federal court system—Jones says, “Oh well.”

As for the nearly quarter-million dollars in cash at his home, Jones says that’s how he gets paid in legitimate business. “I work hard for my money,” he explains. “I travel with high-profile entertainers, and I get paid in cash a lot, and I don’t put all of it in the bank. I mean, it’s not unusual for the people I hang with to have $20,000, $30,000 in cash, and that’s how they pay me. I went to Europe twice with L’il Wayne—that’s the kind of people I’m talking about.” The guns, he says, were lawfully owned: “I have all of them registered, I bought them at gun shops.” He adds, “I’m not guilty of nothing.”

8 thoughts on “The Smoke Thickens: $30 million Baltimore-based pot-conspiracy case part of broader investigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s