Kids Say the Darndest Things: 11-Year-Old’s Exclamation in Play in Mondawmin Mall Drug-Arrests Case

by Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Dec. 16, 2014

“Shut the fuck up!” Latoya Eaton yelled at her 11-year-old daughter. What the daughter had just said—”That’s not my mom’s money!”—is now in play in a $4,530 drug-money forfeiture case filed Dec. 9 in federal court in Maryland.

The case is part of the fallout from the arrests of nine men on Aug. 11, seven of them in the parking lot of Baltimore’s Mondawmin Mall. They’d gone there after a drug supplier—a man who, unbeknownst to them, had been arrested days earlier by the FBI with several kilograms of cocaine and heroin, and promptly turned informant—had called each of them to set up a series of government-controlled coke-and-dope deals. All nine have since been indicted and pleaded not guilty, with many filing motions challenging the constitutionality of the case.

The role of Eaton and her daughter was a sideshow of the big takedown. One of the nine defendants is Ronald Sampson, whom Eaton had driven to the mall. After Sampson was arrested, agents approached the Honda Accord he’d arrived in and saw Eaton “attempting to hide a large stack of U.S. currency under her leg,” the lawsuit states. The cops removed Eaton from the vehicle and found she’d been trying to hide $820, and that’s when Eaton’s daughter blurted out her fateful words. Ultimately, the search also turned up “a roll” of $1,550 “inside of Eaton’s open purse” and “a second roll” of $2,160 “in plain view, lying in the vehicle’s console under the radio.”

Eaton and her daughter were free to leave in the Accord after the money was seized, and in October Eaton filed a petition for its return, writing, “I didn’t have anything to do with the situation that took place I was just in my car and it was taken because I drive someone to mondawmin [sic] with my daughter not knowing anything of the circumstances,” according to the lawsuit.

Turns out, the lawsuit states, “over 700 calls between Ms. Eaton and Mr. Sampson” were made over jail phones after Samspon’s arrest, and they indicate the two “are involved in a personal relationship,” since Eaton refers to Sampson “as ‘baby’ in these calls.”

In one of the calls, made two days after the arrests when Sampson was at the Chesapeake Detention Facility in Baltimore, Sampson told Eaton what was stated in his charging papers—that he was going to buy a kilogram each of heroin and cocaine for $75,000 and $38,000, respectively—and added, “but I had ten-thousand five hundred (10,500) on me,” the lawsuit states.

Given that Sampson was arrested holding $6,000 and another $4,530 was taken from Eaton, totaling $10,540—almost exactly the amount Sampson said he’d brought to the deal—it’s looking like her daughter’s exclamation was spot on. No wonder Eaton wanted her to keep her trap shut.

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