By Jeffrey Anderson and Van Smith
Published in City Paper, March 12, 2008
For more than two decades, East Baltimore clothing store Total Male has been associated with fashionable urban attire. Located on a bustling block of Monument Street, not far from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, the popular store has also sold tickets to concerts and hip-hop DJ events.
But a federal drug and money-laundering indictment unsealed last year against 41-year-old fugitive Shawn Michael Green, who was the president of an affiliated West Baltimore store called Total Male II, complicates Total Male’s image as simply a place for scenesters to buy clothing and tickets to parties.
The indictment also opens a window into two well-connected East Baltimore businessmen with interests in Total Male–and in politics: Milton Tillman Jr., a sizable figure in real estate, nightclubs, and bail bonds, who was part of the company that owns Total Male, which is located at 2330 E. Monument St.; and Noel Liverpool Sr., a former football star at Morgan State University who has had interests in bars, apparel, and real estate, and who helped Green open Total Male II, in Mondawmin Mall in 1996; Total Male II has since closed.
The ties between these two men and Green suggest an overlap in the city’s legitimate business economy and the drug underworld.
Green suddenly disappeared sometime around March 26, 2007, when federal agents attempted to bring him in on drug charges after arresting his mother, Yolanda Crawley, and serving search warrants on a number of their Maryland and Florida properties. As a result, the investigation was disrupted, but the unsealed indictment accuses Green of drug trafficking since 1998 and calls for forfeiture of $4 million in cash, property, and other assets. On March 20, a four-story Reservoir Hill apartment building owned by Green is scheduled for auction as a result of the forfeiture.
Though Green remains at large, three of his co-conspirators–lawyer Rachel Donegan, mortgage broker David Lincoln, and Green’s mother–pleaded guilty last year for their parts in his alleged drug and money-laundering scheme and await sentencing in the coming weeks. All three copped to wire fraud that allowed Crawley to purchase luxury homes in Maryland and Florida using false loan applications. The probe into Green’s alleged conspiracy is ongoing, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the indictment mentions “others” who are allegedly involved, in addition to Green, Crawley, Donegan, and Lincoln.
Green’s case is intriguing in part because he fled, but also because of the stature of Tillman Jr. and Liverpool Sr. Nothing to tie Tillman Jr. and Liverpool Sr. to Green’s alleged conspiracy has come to light publicly so far.
To some, these two businessmen are icons in the underserved communities of East Baltimore. Together, the two are fully in charge of large swaths of property that bear the scars of inner-city poverty. Between them, Tillman Jr., Liverpool Sr., and their family members, along with their various companies, own scores and scores of properties around the city and surrounding counties, including more than a few along East Monument Street. On a recent afternoon on Monument, for example, near where Total Male operates, there was a palpable sense of disorder along the strip of liquor stores, carry-outs, bail-bonds companies, and tax-service providers that populate the block. A Baltimore police officer was writing up an older gentleman for what appeared to be loitering while ignoring a crew of young street-bike riders as they tore off down the street popping wheelies.
The trade name Total Male was registered from 1993 until it lapsed in 1998 to All Pro Sports Enterprises Inc., which was formed in 1985 with Tillman Jr. as a board member. In 1996, Liverpool Sr. helped Green set up Total Male II, according to the attorney who filed the incorporation papers, with the written permission of Total Male’s resident agent.
Green is listed in incorporation papers as president of Total Male II, and his mother and his father, Michael Green, are also listed as officers of the company. Corporate records list the principal office as 2339 Eutaw Place–the address of Green’s forfeited apartment building scheduled to go to auction, which also served as home base for Green’s Platinum Hill recording studio.
Among the many mysteries surrounding Green and Total Male is the claim to the brand name. Anthony J. Dease of Royal Supreme Motors, an auto dealership and tag-and-title service a block away from Total Male’s East Baltimore location, claims that “I was in Total Male long before Shawn Green was there. I started the business like 25 years ago.” Dease was convicted for stealing city funds in the mid-1980s, but adds, “I work for the city now.”
Confusion about Total Male’s ownership structure is only partly cleared up by state business records. The trade name was owned by All Pro Sports, and in 1992 Dease was listed as the company’s president. In 1993, John H. Bates Sr.–who owned the Monument Street property that houses Total Male and other Tillman businesses–became the resident agent. The property is now owned by Tillman Jr.’s son Milton Tillman III, who bought it in 2005. Reached by phone in early March, Bates contends that he is “one part of Total Male, the one in Mondawmin Mall,” and when asked if he knows Shawn Green says, “Yes, I do,” but declines any further comment.
The formation of Total Male II comes with its own backstory. Attorney Leronia Josey drew up its corporate papers in the mid-1990s. She recalls dealing not with Shawn Green but with Noel Liverpool Sr. in setting up the company. Though she confirms that Bates gave Green written consent to use Total Male II as a business name, she says she never met Green.
“I remember [Liverpool] as an enterprising person who wanted to own a piece of the American Dream,” says Josey, a former member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents who currently sits on the Maryland Higher Education Commission. “I do a lot of work for churches and small businesses. There was a big push for economic development at the time.”
According to Josey, Liverpool saw a market for fashionable urban apparel. “I went to Mondawmin Mall and said, `I need to see what you’re doing with this store,'” she recalls. “There were all these nice coats and jackets.” She says she hasn’t had contact with Liverpool in more than a decade.
Green’s indictment potentially sullies the images of Tillman Jr. and Liverpool Sr. as community leaders and raises questions about whether Baltimore’s illicit economy is intertwined with its legitimate business and civic landscape.
Most emblematic of this, perhaps, is their ties to politicians. One of Liverpool’s companies, Liverpool Enterprises Inc., has donated $4,000 to each of the campaign committees of Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt and state Sen. Joan Carter Conway. Conway’s CIG Professional Tax Services is located directly across the street from Total Male, at 2331 E. Monument St., and her husband, Baltimore City Liquor License Board employee Vernon Conway, is her partner in that business.
One of Tillman Jr.’s real-estate companies, New Trend Development, has donated $1,000 to Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith’s campaign and $500 each to former Baltimore City Councilman Keiffer Mitchell and former Baltimore State’s Attorney Stuart O. Simms, who ran for Maryland attorney general in 2006. Tillman’s 4 Aces Bail Bonds has contributed $4,750 to politicians since 2001, including $1,200 to Maryland Del. Talmadge Branch and $1,000 to state Comptroller Peter Franchot.
Though Liverpool Sr. has a clean criminal record in Maryland, Tillman Jr. has twice been convicted in cases that reverberated in Baltimore political circles. The first, in 1993, was an attempted $30,000 bribe of Gia Blatterman, then the acting chair of the Baltimore City zoning board. In 1996, shortly after Tillman was released from prison in that case, a jury convicted him of tax evasion for his use of front companies to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in nightclub revenue. Most recently, Tillman Jr. and others were acquitted of illegally using property to underwrite bail bonds in criminal cases.
Attempts to reach Liverpool Sr. and Tillman Jr. for this article were unsuccessful. Jeffrey Chernow, an attorney for Liverpool Sr., did not return several calls. Tillman Jr.’s attorney Gregory Dorsey said he would relay a message to his client, who did not return the call.
Much less is known about Shawn Green. Despite being indicted as a longtime major drug trafficker, he has managed to fly below the radar. Federal court records in Florida indicate he has had previous drug arrests, but in Maryland he’s only been charged before with one crime: a 1992 disorderly-conduct charge in Baltimore City. In 2006, according to court documents, federal law enforcers seized more than $900,000 in cash from people they identified as Green’s associates. Federal law enforcers decline to say how the cash seizure helped investigators move the conspiracy case forward–or any other details or insights about the case against Green.
Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein insists that Green’s sudden disappearance last March is not unusual. “Usually we catch them in a week or two,” he says. “About five or 10 suspects a year remain at large.” He says he has no idea when Green fled but believes it was after federal agents arrested his mother and served search warrants at six properties on March 26, 2007. Rosenstein also does not seem flustered by Green’s flight. “There were two priorities,” he says, pointing to the intended arrest of Green and seizure of drugs, money and documents. “The main priority was to execute the search warrants.” He adds, “We have lots of evidence that we won’t disclose unless or until we go to trial.”
Which means there’s more to Shawn Green than what’s in the public record. And though Josey may have been satisfied that Total Male was simply helping its owners chase the American Dream, court records show that some of its employees and principals have engaged in illegal activity. Other than Dease and Tillman Jr., who have criminal backgrounds, those records show at least two Total Male employees were convicted on federal drug trafficking charges.
And then there’s Shawn Green, indicted for major drug-related crimes, but yet to be caught or convicted.