Good Times: Dion Fearon in Baltimore, asking all about Jean Brown

By Van Smith

Baltimore, March 21, 2019

Yesterday at Studio 4 in downtown Baltimore, producer Dion Fearon asked me questions about lifer Jean Brown, the Baltimore-based Jamaican who in 2009 ordered and oversaw the tortuous murder and dismemberment of Michael Knight, Brown’s friend and co-conspirator in a $1M-a-month Mexican cannabis-trafficking operation. Knight’s body, which was sawed to pieces, packaged, and tossed into various dumpsters in the Baltimore area, was never recovered.

I’d first written about Brown in late 2010, when a search warrant in the case dropped at U.S. District Court in Maryland, and ended up writing about her two more times. Fearon is now putting together a documentary about Brown, and managed to track me down just in time for me to go back over my records and writings quickly in preparation for the shoot.

We covered a lot of ground involving Brown, but Fearon also asked me about how the Brown conspiracy compared to other major pot-trafficking cases I’d covered. That prompted me to recall that the very building we sat in was once part of the real-estate holdings of Jeremy Landsman, who played a role in the globe-trotting, jet-setting cannabis conspiracy headed by Matt Nicka, and that next door used to be the location of Sonar, Dan McIntosh‘s nightclub that prosecutors contended, unsuccessfully, was part of the scheme.

When I arrived at the studio just prior to the appointed time, former federal prosecutor Stefan Cassella, who led the prosecution of Brown, was seated in front the cameras. When we were introduced, he was incredibly pleasant – considering all the words I’ve written about his work in Maryland over the years, much of which was critical reporting. There were stories about seizing assets from South Mountain Creamery, prosecuting online gambling and synthetic drugs, a forfeiture case marred by agents’ creating a faked drug-dog certification in litigation, and an occasion when Cassella drew the ire of a veteran federal judge – and that’s just what I can readily recall.

That’s Cassella on the right. Photo: Dion Fearon

When my interview was over, Fearon and I spoke about other stories, including Querida Lewis – Fearon brought her up her name, asking if I had heard of her – and Sean Hinton, the Baltimore police trainee whose body was found floating off Manhattan in 1992, and whose son Ronald Hinton was later convicted, on shaky evidence and a controversial confession, of raping and murdering a four-year-old girl.

I had presumed Fearon was a Californian – which she is – but it turns out she grew up in Baltimore. I predict we’ll be crossing paths again, and look forward to seeing what comes of her Brown biopic.


Talking Machinations: Vending Machine Co. Owner Wants Talking Head Property

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Jan. 24, 2007

In late December, Dan McIntosh erupted with expletives over the phone at the mention of Michael J. DePasquale Jr.’s name. McIntosh, who managed and co-owned the since-closed Talking Head Club on Davis Street, said he was mad because he believed DePasquale, who operates Millionaire Vending LLC, screwed him out of an opportunity to buy the building where the Talking Head operated. The deal would have saved the failing club, McIntosh thought, but when DePasquale stepped in and got a contract with the seller last fall, it was the final nail in the coffin.

“That fuckin’ cocksucker,” raged McIntosh, who is on probation in Baltimore County for drug dealing and has open Baltimore City criminal charges against him for harassment filed in November by DePasquale, who alleges McIntosh has left phone messages threatening to kill him and his wife (“Talking Head,” Jan. 3). The case is scheduled for trial on Feb. 20.

“He came into the Talking Head as a vendor, overheard me discussing the purchase, and two days later he puts in a contract on the building,” McIntosh said last month of DePasquale. “And then he didn’t buy it! He called me recently, left a nasty message, said he’d found out about my past and he’s going to ruin my life.”

DePasquale, whose company has had a jukebox, pool table, game machines, and bill changer in the Talking Head since the fall of 2005, recalled events differently in a phone call to City Paper on Jan. 5. “Those guys wanted me to come in with them on the club,” he said, referring to the group McIntosh was pulling together to pool resources for the purchase. “But they didn’t have anything to bring to the table – no money at all. Nothing. So I went on without them.”

DePasquale added that his contract to purchase the building was extended until Feb. 17, a contention that Jim Turner, the real-estate agent for the seller, Jae Y. Hwang, confirmed over the phone on Jan. 18. Turner would not disclose the agreed-upon price, saying that it is privileged information that he’s not free to share even though he’d like to. McIntosh said he’d paid for an appraisal that put a value of $270,000 on the building and contended that DePasquale’s bid was $312,000. Records show that the last time the building switched hands, in 2004, it went for $450,000.

On Jan. 5 DePasquale urgently wanted to share more information about his dealings with McIntosh, saying “your readers would find all of this very interesting” and setting up a plan to meet during the second week in January. But he abruptly stopped talking to City Paper after that phone call. His last communication was a phone message left on the evening of Jan. 5: “Got some news for you,” he said. “We’re actually going down tonight to the Talking Head with the police. They’re repossessing equipment that Mr. Daniel McIntosh is trying to steal, and he’s been trying to sell it on the streets. . . . And I’ve got the evidence for it. So Mr. McIntosh might be put in jail tonight.”

According to David Goldberg, DePasquale’s attorney, the repossession of Millionaire Vending’s equipment from the Talking Head went swimmingly. After filing a complaint in Baltimore City District Court on Jan. 2 against the Talking Head over the return of Millionaire’s machines, which the complaint asserted are worth nearly $27,000, DePasquale went to the club to claim them. “At this particular moment in time, [McIntosh] was a cooperative guy,” Goldberg says. “He was very congenial. There weren’t any fistfights or bombs thrown or anything like that.” The complaint, Goldberg explains, “was nothing sophisticated or sexy. It’s simply that Millionaire Vending requested the machines back and [Talking Head] wouldn’t give the machines back. Now that [DePasquale] has them back, the issue may have become moot.” McIntosh did not respond to messages asking for comment for this article, and neither did his business partner Roman Kuebler.

Goldberg says he advised DePasquale not to talk to City Paper any longer. “I told him not to talk to reporters,” he recalls. “I said that, based on my experience, they don’t write what you tell them to say, they write what they want to say.”

Like McIntosh, DePasquale has a tumultuous history in the courts. He was convicted of assault in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore in 2001 and received a four-year sentence, with three years and four days suspended. He’s been charged with a number of other crimes, including impersonating a police officer, theft, writing bad checks, a battery charge, and another assault charge. In several of the cases the prosecutors declined to pursue the charges, and in the others he received probation before judgment.

DePasquale’s attorney in many of the criminal matters is from a Baltimore-based law firm, Silverman, Thompson, and White, that is now suing him for nearly $3,000 that it claims he owes; the case is scheduled for trial in February. The dispute is over services the firm provided in negotiating a lease for one of DePasquale’s companies, Vicious Boutique, which operated a sex shop out of the same address – 6506 Ridge Road in Rosedale – that is listed as the principal office of Millionaire Vending.

Vicious Boutique’s short existence–the public record indicates it was open for about a year starting in the fall of 2003–generated a handful of other lawsuits for unpaid bills. In particular, Jack Gresser, who owns real estate on the Block, including the old Gayety Theater, where the Hustler Club now operates, sued Vicious in 2004 and won judgments totaling more than $4,500 over pornographic DVDs and sex toys that weren’t paid for. Baltimore County Councilman Douglas B. Riley, Gresser’s lawyer in those cases, says, “We got a judgment, and when we tried to collect it had gone out of business. When we got to the store to seize the property, it was empty.” The case file indicates that neighbors said DePasquale had moved to Florida.

In Dania Beach, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale, DePasquale owns another vending machine company called Tripleblaster Vending. That company was recently dissolved due to its failure to file an annual report with the state of Florida. In 2005, DePasquale used Tripleblaster checks to pay for about $2,500 in veterinarian services from the Academy Animal Hospital on Belair Road. The first check was drawn from a closed account, according to the court file of the criminal bad-check charge that the vet filed, while the other was returned for insufficient funds. Also in 2005, DePasquale was charged in Baltimore County with cutting a bad check to Komar Co., a pornography wholesaler in Hampden, but prosecutors declined to pursue the case.

These and other cases of DePasquale coming up short on the bills, or not paying off court judgments, raise the question of whether or not he can make good on his contract to buy the Talking Head real estate. The building’s current owner, Jae Hwang, repeatedly says, “I have no idea,” or, “I really don’t know,” when asked about DePasquale and his troubles.

February will be the month when many of these issues will be resolved. That’s when DePasquale’s contract to purchase the Davis Street building expires, when the law firm’s suit against him goes to trial, and when his criminal harassment charge against McIntosh will be adjudicated. What remains unclear is how DePasquale’s contract to buy the building contributed to the already-failing Talking Head’s ultimate demise. To DePasquale, it was all just business-rejecting an offer to come in with cashless partners and instead pursuing the deal on his own. McIntosh, though, said, “All the shit that he put us through, it was a lot to deal with.”

Talking Head: “Talking Dan” And The Demise Of A Davis Street Nightclub

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Jan. 3, 2007

Daniel Gerard Joaquin McIntosh Sr. manages the Talking Head Club downtown on Davis Street, where he’s better known as “Talking Dan.” In the run-up to the club’s announced Dec. 31 closing, though, McIntosh and the club’s president and liquor license holder, Roman Kuebler, kept mum, declining to talk with City Paper music editor Jess Harvell. Working on a story about the closing, Harvell consulted City Paper‘s news side, searching for ways to hunt up the current owner of the building where the business is located. Ten minutes of internet searching later, and it began to look like Talking Dan–who has a lengthy record of criminal charges, including a 2005 pot conviction–might be part of the Talking Head’s problem. Once McIntosh was informed of the findings on Dec. 28, he addressed such concerns at length over the phone.

“I sold some pot, I got into trouble for it,” McIntosh, 31, says of his criminal record. “Apparently now everything I’ve done in my past is going to be an issue with the Talking Head.”

McIntosh says that Kuebler was aware of McIntosh’s troubled past with the law before bringing him in as a partner in the business a few years ago, and that Kuebler was understanding when McIntosh was convicted in 2005 in Baltimore County of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

“He said, `I know you’re a good person,'” McIntosh recalls Kuebler saying, “`I’m your friend, and I’m not going to hold this against you.'” Kuebler did not return phone calls for this article.

McIntosh asserts that his legal entanglements have nothing to do with the Talking Head closing, which instead is due to a recent financial coup de grace. “We were beating a horse for four years, to make it move,” McIntosh says of the club’s struggling operations, “and then stuff like that happens.” The “stuff,” McIntosh explains, revolves around preparations he and others had made recently to purchase the Talking Head building at 203 Davis St. Their efforts, which McIntosh says included paying for a $2,600 appraisal, came to naught when the club’s vending machine provider, Michael J. DePasquale, Jr., got a contract to buy the place from under the Talking Head. Compounding this wrinkle, McIntosh adds, was the club’s ongoing inability to make timely rent payments and the status of its lease under changing property owners.

What McIntosh didn’t know was that DePasquale filed criminal harassment and telephone misuse charges against him on Nov. 12, 2006, and that a trial date in the case is scheduled for Jan. 4. “I had no idea about that,” McIntosh responds when told. “Wow. That’s very interesting. I’m on probation for my other shit. My next call will be to my attorney.”

DePasquale’s complaint states that McIntosh was “threatening me and my wife” because “he objects to me purchasing a property, that we are settling on 11-17-06–he is a tenant there.” The complaint says DePasquale has saved recordings of threatening messages from McIntosh. “I have told him to stop,” the complaint ends, but McIntosh “continues to threaten our lives and violence [sic].”

DePasquale, reached by phone on Dec. 28, declined to comment, saying the criminal complaint against McIntosh speaks for itself. As for McIntosh’s claim that DePasquale sought to snatch the property up from under the Talking Head, DePasquale says, “you’re a reporter, you know not to believe that.” McIntosh says that DePasquale’s contract to buy the building has since lapsed.

McIntosh, meanwhile, says he would prefer the Talking Head go out gracefully, with prospects for re-opening elsewhere. “I wanted to end it on a happy note,” he says. “I tell you, I just like rocking and rolling, and I’m trying to end it on a nice, exciting note. We’ve discussed a few locations–in a neighborhood of some kind, maybe Hampden.

“I grew up in Hampden, and I’d be into bringing something back, to go back and offer something of pure substance,” McIntosh continues. “I know the names of a lot of those junkies on those corners in Hampden, ’cause I’m a very rare case, one of the few who I came up with who did not wind up junkies or in jail.”

Actually, McIntosh acknowledges, he’s been both a junkie and in jail. In the late 1990s, he did time in York, Pa., on drug charges, and earlier in the 1990s “I was a straight-up fucking junkie–but I don’t see what that has to do with the Talking Head,” McIntosh says. Since then, his troubles have continued, though he says his “intent is pure” and that his more recent legal imbroglios amount to “a few questionable things in the eyes of some,” as opposed to his earlier misdeeds, which were “questionable things in the eyes of everyone.”

The 2005 Baltimore County pot conviction, McIntosh says, wasn’t as big a deal as it appeared. “They had a tip that I was some kind of drug kingpin and came in looking for 100 pounds of weed,” he recalls of the Nov. 3, 2004, raid on his Pikesville home. “And they walked away with an ounce and a half.”

According to the court file, the raid also turned up lights for growing pot and $4,800 in cash. On the same day, police followed McIntosh to another location in Baltimore City, where they recovered 36 live pot plants, six pounds of pot, $41,742 in cash, and two guns.

“They followed me to his house and busted his house,” McIntosh recalls, adding that “it was kind of my fault” the location was raided.

McIntosh was not convicted in connection with the Baltimore City haul, only with what was at his Pikesville home, and he pleaded guilty. The court noted his prior convictions–a 1993 assault and a 1997 drug possession with intent to distribute–and gave him a three-year suspended sentence, 80 hours of community service, and two years of supervised probation.

Just before midnight on Nov. 15, 2004–the day before he was indicted in Baltimore County as a result of the raid–McIntosh was pulled over on Calvert Street in Mount Vernon for having a headlight out. He was found to have a suspended license for outstanding child-support commitments; the arresting officer searched McIntosh and found six Valium pills in his pocket. For that, on Feb. 14, 2005–two days before his Baltimore County pot conviction–McIntosh earned a drug-possession conviction with a 90-day suspended sentence and one year of probation.

Since 2002, when the Talking Head first opened, McIntosh has been embroiled in a series of legal battles with the mothers of two of his three children. McIntosh’s need for legal representation on these matters (not to mention the criminal cases), on top of the responsibilities of being a father providing for his children, translate into a need for income that the Talking Head hasn’t met recently, he says.

The club, McIntosh says, “doesn’t pay anybody anymore, and hasn’t been for six months, and I essentially stopped working there.” Instead, he says he “does a lot of construction work,” and collects rent on properties that he’s involved in. “I come from poor,” he stresses, “so I just roll around and get it where I can–it’s all just money in my pocket.” Things are looking up, financially, he says, since he moved recently to Sparks in Baltimore County.

Since McIntosh’s problems overlap with the Talking Head’s problems–at least insofar as the pending charges filed by DePasquale are concerned–McIntosh seeks to distance himself from the club. “I’m not actually the owner of the company,” McIntosh asserts. But the 2005 renewal application for the club’s liquor license, which was filled out by Kuebler, the licensee, lists McIntosh as 25 percent owner, with the rest belonging to Kuebler. “That’s roughly true,” McIntosh says, “but that’s just something that Roman said–there’s nothing in the company’s corporate charter about that.” Kuebler did not respond to requests to clear up the questions about the club’s ownership structure.

McIntosh, meanwhile, decries City Paper‘s interest in his problems. “This is not something the alternative press should be doing,” he says, adding that “you’re going after the wrong side here.” His complaints about City Paper aren’t new. In the 2005 Best of Baltimore issue, the club was designated “Best Rock Club,” and, while praising its esoteric bookings of local and traveling bands, the write-up included an unsupported observation about Talking Head Club’s “laissez-faire approach to underage drinking.” The paper apologized in print for the misstep, but McIntosh was agitated by the insinuation.

In talking about his problems and the end of the Talking Head for this article, though, McIntosh speaks at length, in reasoned tones, with an it-is-what-it-is attitude.

“I just felt the need to call you and say a few things because it would be a shame for all who are involved with the club to be tarnished by me,” he says. “I’ve looked at my [court] record before, and said, `That guy’s a fucking killer,’ so I can understand” why it’s newsworthy. “But, as crazy as [the record] looks, every single one of those things is easily explained. It’s all been blown out of proportion.”

Talking Trash

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Baltimore loses one of its only small venues promoting indie/avant music and you eulogize the loss with a smear piece (“Talking Head,” Mobtown Beat, Jan. 3). Dan McIntosh’s criminal record has absolutely nothing to do with his management of the Talking Head. If anybody at City Paper really got to know the guy, they would realize his heart is in the right place. As 2007 dawns the future looks grim–no Talking Head and an alternative weekly that has descended journalistically to the level of a shitrag.

Matthew Selander

“Travesty” sums up Van Smith’s recent pulp schlock, ostensibly on the long-anticipated closure of the Talking Head Club, but more so a hatchet job of sensationalist journalism. I’d imagine it would be more than a little embarrassing for CP‘s senior editors to concoct apologia for Smith’s giddy voyeurism masquerading as investigative reporting.

The irony, however, is at our voyeur’s expense. His breathless expose of the seedy inner workings of this fringe club confuses a “scoop” with public knowledge. Didn’t he find it a little striking how unabashedly candid Dan McIntosh would be with a reporter, and on the record? Besides, anyone with even a pedestrian familiarity with the goings-on of the Davis Street building over the past decade-plus, including years long before McIntosh ever made his mark, might find the prudish swoon of the piece a little sigh-inducing. “Vice in a dive bar!? Well, I NEVER…!”

With questions about a third incarnation of the Head remaining just that, I think we can do without the boring kind of rock-scene hagiography we’d often get at a time like this. However, I can’t help but lament a wasted opportunity to give voice to the thoughts of the many Davis Street faithful that damn near grew up in that weird Tudor hovel, or at least give a decent account of its time as the Talking Head with some sense of context and history for the younger crowd.

But then again, maybe it’s kudos for Smith over on Park Avenue; his muckrake has caught whiff of just the kind of juicy poot that CP intends for the Annals of Baltimore Scene Legend! Or maybe they could just dig a little deeper into that DePasquale guy for some truly buff stuff….

Michael Baier

So City Paper did a bit on Dan from the Talking Head in regard to its closing. Whereas an article on the history of the building, who’s been in there–Talking Head, Ottobar, pre my time, etc.–and all the great stuff the place has done would have been rad, instead City Paper decided to smear Dan across the page.

I pretty much think that is horseshit.

Are you going to tell me everyone has a clean past with no screwups? Hell…I was arrested at the age of 14 for possession and attempt to distribute with marijuana and speed and subsequently expelled from high school for a year. I have had many an unpleasantly ending relationship that you could dig some dirt up on, I’ve stolen, got in fights, did my share of property destruction here and there, played the I-don’t-care-about-anyone-but-myself gig…but you know, that is what got me to here, where I am today: operating the Baltimore Free Store and really being able to make an impact on Baltimore.

Running Dan into the ground was a low blow and really put a bad taste in my mouth with regard to City Paper. We all have skeletons in our closet. I don’t see why it is necessary to display them to the world, especially when it seems like all it is is a back and fourth between City Paper staff and one individual. I don’t see how his past has anything to do with the Talking Head. If you were trying to pass judgment on his managing abilities as reasoning for the closing of the Talking Head, then you need to bring up issues that relate to business practices, not drug use or issues within his personal life.

I love you, City Paper, but sometimes you make me want to use you for kindling rather than reading.

Matt Warfield

Your story about the closing of the Talking Head nightclub sounded more like an episode of America’s Almost Wanted than it did a story about a group of Baltimore artists, entertainers, restaurateurs, and impresarios who came together earlier in this millennium to successfully establish and run an extraordinary music, social, and beverage venue by, of, and for the people of Baltimore.

And despite your insinuations to the contrary and your largely irrelevant information about the club, the folks who kept the Talking Head going these years (including the “president and liquor license holder” Roman “Guitar” Kuebler) in my view have consistently behaved conscientiously and even scrupulously with regard to their legal and dare-I-say social responsibilities and obligations under the law; this continuing attitude on your part to suggest otherwise borders on libel, and if not that, at least dickheadism of the worst kind.

I for one would rather know how the joint came to be, who played there, who went there, and where they will go now in Baltimore for a true alternative venue.

Frankly, the building on Davis Street, in my opinion, is a not-quaint, disgusting firetrap with dysfunctional plumbing, poor acoustics, and not nearly enough “liebensraum” for the rockers and rollers and movers and groovers who happily congregated there and supported the noteworthy tunesmanship of the Talking Headers.

Its new owner would do well to erect a nice little parking structure or another “badly needed” law office building. Seriously.

Hopefully, the TH folks will find new permanent quarters and continue bringing the Baltimore experience to music lovers from around the globe and beyond.

And why don’t you investigative journalists down at City Paper cut the Chris Hansen-esque bullshit and do something productive with your talents like reviewing my album.

Walter T. Kuebler

The writer is Talking Head co-owner Roman Kuebler’s father.

I was shocked and appalled at the article this week about the end of the Talking Head. I can only hope anyone who knows anything about that place, its owners, and their ongoing feud with your paper sees right through the thinly veiled final stab you took at Dan McIntosh now that you don’t need to coax him for his advertising. However, that actually isn’t why I was so angered. What has angered me is you chose to print a pointless story, when the real story there was about the building itself, and its place in Baltimore music history. I came across that history in the late ’80s, performing some of my first gigs in a band at the club called Chambers, and from that point on in my life, that building became synonymous with good underground music and a place where Baltimore’s underground could come and be their freaky selves. From those days of Chambers, to the birthplace of the Ottobar, to its last incarnation as the Talking Head, 203 Davis St. has been an integral part of the music scene in this town for over a quarter of a century. What occurred on New Year’s Eve, when the Head shut its doors for good, was not the death of one club, it was the death of an era. Instead of eulogizing it properly, you spit on the grave, and for that you should be ashamed.

Lonnie Fisher

The writer is the proprietor of Sonar, where Dan McIntosh now works as a manager.

Editor Lee Gardner responds: For the record, there is no ongoing feud with the Talking Head, at least on City Paper‘s part. I’ve known co-owner Roman Kuebler for at least a decade; I like him and respect him. My only encounter with Dan McIntosh was essentially an extended argument, but he impressed me as a passionate guy. In the wake of dust-up regarding the 2005 Best of Baltimore issue–an incident, speaking personally, that I regret–City Paper employees continued to frequent the club and we continued to write about its shows. We were a media sponsor of its Reverent Fog Festival last September and awarded it Best Rock Club again in the Best of Baltimore issue that same month.

As explained in Van’s story, we fully intended to do a fairly standard farewell-to-the-Talking Head story in our No Cover space. Noncooperation from the club’s principals led to some cursory internet research to try to confirm some basic facts, which lead us to information about McIntosh’s criminal record, and the still-pending complaint from Michael DePasquale. Given the paper’s lengthy history of reporting on the junctures where crime and nightlife intersect, whether benignly or otherwise, it seemed necessary to follow up on that information. Under similar circumstances, we would have done the same with any club.

Believe it or not, I’m sorry the Talking Head is closing, and I sincerely hope that the folks behind it can re-establish a sustainable version of the club elsewhere. For better or worse, we will continue to write about it then, too.

Evidence revealed in the long-running Matt Nicka globe-trotting pot-conspiracy case in Maryland

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Mar. 24, 2015


It’s been nearly half a decade since Matt Nicka (pictured), allegedly the shadow owner of the now-defunct downtown Baltimore nightclub Sonar, was first charged for sitting atop an international, high-volume, decade-long, pot-and-money-laundering conspiracy based in Baltimore. And still the case goes on.

Nicka and his co-defendant wife Gretchen Peterson were brought to Maryland last fall to answer the charges after being picked up in Canada in 2013, a few months after another top co-defendant, David D’Amico, was extradited from Colombia. Now, with California attorney James Bustamante at Nicka’s side, he’s fighting for his freedom, in part by challenging the legality of a 2010 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raid of a house he used to own at 4210 Clarkdale Road, in the woods just northwest of Television Hill in Baltimore. By doing so, Nicka put in the court record evidence against him that had not previously been in the public sphere.

At issue, according to the Bustamante-penned motion to suppress evidence against Nicka that was collected at the Clarkdale Road home, filed in court on March 20, is the constitutionality of the raid. Bustamante asserts that “probable cause to support the search” was “based on insufficient and stale information.” Regardless of how fresh and pertinent the information was for probable-cause purposes, it still sheds new light on how the investigation was developed by case agent Cindy Buskey of the DEA, who testified at the lengthy 2012 trial in which a jury found two of the conspiracy’s 16 defendants—former Sonar co-owner Daniel McIntosh and pilot Keagan Leahy—guilty of some, but not all, of the charges against them.

Buskey wrote the affidavit supporting the raid on the then-vacant house, which turned up no dope or money, but did produce a money counter, a heat sealer, photographs, maps, and various other documents, among other seemingly innocuous items. Her sworn statement described how investigators unearthed connections between the players, prompting them to interview D’Amico’s ex-wife, Liliana D’Amico, and Peterson’s mother and sister, Mary and Jessica Peterson. The affidavit also gave details provided by co-conspirator Andrew Sharpeta, who cooperated with authorities, about the scope of the pot-dealing operation, with the Clarkdale Road house serving as its nerve center. The affidavit also relates conversations with an unnamed neighbor, with whom Nicka had entrusted a key to the house.

Sharpeta, who testified before the grand jury that indicted the case as well as before the jury that convicted McIntosh and Leahy, told invesigators that he lived at the Clarkdale Road house in 2008 and 2009, and that Nicka had moved there about a year earlier. While there, “he, Nicka, D’Amico, and others had counted large amounts of money” using money counters, the affidavit states, and bundled them in $50,000 increments made up of 10 bundles of $5,000. Six $50,000 increments were then put in envelopes that were then “loaded into a suitcase or duffle bags” in increments up to $1 million. The suitcases were “locked and super glued shut” and then “taken to California on D’Amico’s airplane and/or a tractor trailer.” Aside from detailing the cash-management tactics undertaken at the house, Sharpeta also “described the delivery and distribution of hundreds of pounds of marijuana from this residence.”

When Mary and Jessica Peterson were interviewed in Pennsylvania in late 2009, Jessica Peterson said “Gretchen had told her that she acted as a money courier” for Nicka, and that Gretchen Peterson “was living beyond her means,” based on “her clothing and her social lifestyle” even though she was “unemployed.” At the restaurant where Jessica Peterson worked, employees were “happy to see Gretchen because she would leave extremely large tips.” Mary Peterson, meanwhile, “stated that she suspected that her daughter was involved in drug trafficking” because she’d found a “duffle bag in 2005-2006” that “contained marijuana” and “observed a stack of money that she decribed as being one and a half feet by one and a half feet on Gretchen’s bed.” Both women “also stated that Gretchen informed them that she left” Pennsylvania “in October of 2009 to avoid speaking with law enforcement” after “investigators attempted to serve a grand jury subpoena” on her there.

Investigators caught up with Liliana D’Amico after a 2009 raid at a house in Hampden turned up evidence that the conspiracy made use of an aircraft co-owned by David D’Amico, and her name turned up on database searches as associated with him. They found that in 2004 in South Carolina, she had been stopped in a vehicle registered to Gretchen Peterson that had an empty, hidden compartment, and the car was seized by the DEA after drug-sniffing dogs gave a positive alert. Found in the car were photographs, including one of Leahy, the pilot who flew D’Amico’s plane and had been involved in its purchase. When she was interviewed in 2009, she told them she was no longer married to D’Amico, and she denied any knowledge of drug trafficking, but admitted she’d seen D’Amico with large amounts of cash.

When investigators interviewed the Clarkdale Road neighbor in February 2010, they learned he “had not seen Nicka or any other individual at the residence in approximately one year.” Previously, though, “Nicka would leave the residence for weeks at a time,” and “had given the neighbor the key to 4210 Clarkdale Road” and “asked the neighbor to look after the residence during his extended absences.” During “the latter part of 2009, the water pipes burst in the residence on two occasions” and the neighbor “had attempted to contact Nicka on his cellular phone,” but it “was disconnected.” The neighbor also had seen Gretchen Peterson, Sharpeta, and D’Amico at the house.

The jury trial of Nicka, Peterson, and D’Amico is scheduled to start next March, and run for five weeks. In the meantime, all three have consented to detention pending trial. Back when they were on the lam, all three, as well the only remaining fugitive in the case, Jeffery Putney, were the subject of “Most Wanted” media coverage. The jury that convicted McIntosh and Leahy, meanwhile, did not buy the government’s theory that Sonar was a money-laundering front, and arguments in the case alleged prosecutorial improprieties that were deemed inapposite by the judge. An interesting figure in the case was Baltimore developer Jeremiah Landsman, who received a relatively lenient sentence, though all the players bear some intrigue. When McIntosh was sentenced, he got the lowest penalty he could—10 years in prison—though some of the others received serious time too. In light of what happened to the others, it’ll be interesting to see how the case against Nicka, Peterson, and D’Amico—the top three defendants in the conspiracy—plays out.

Feds Name-Drop Baltimore’s Sonar Nightclub in New Pot-Conspiracy Indictment

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, June 4, 2014


Daniel McIntosh has long maintained he’s been the majority shareholder of Sonar nightclub in downtown Baltimore since he took over from co-founder Lonnie Fisher in 2007. But if new federal charges against McIntosh and nine others, filed May 2 in Maryland federal court, are true, McIntosh has had a silent partner in Sonar: Matt Nicka, pictured above, the lead defendant in the decade-long, $30-million, cross-country pot-conspiracy case that was first filed under seal in Dec. 2010.

Court records do not indicate that Nicka has ever been arrested and arraigned for the charges, so, presumably, he’s a fugitive, along with three other co-defendants in the case. His nicknames are “Surfer Dude,” “Grump,” and “Morrow,” according to the indictment, and he also uses the following aliases: Anthony Thacker, Matt Smith, Matt Marino, Matt St. John, Calvin Bartlett, and Matthew Johnson. Other than information in the new, 26-page indictment, which describes Nicka’s leadership role in a scheme that used trains, planes, and trucks to move pot and money around the country for years, and that engaged in a host of activities to hide the proceeds, City Paper has learned little about Nicka.

In 2008 and 2009, the indictment states, Nicka and McIntosh “did manage and control” Sonar, and made it “available for use, for the purpose of unlawfully storing, distributing and using marijuana,” verbiage that the indictment distils down to “maintaining drug-involved premises.” They also are accused of laundering money together by wiring pot-dealing proceeds to “purchase sound equipment for Sonar” in July 2007. While Nicka and McIntosh, who is 36 years old, are lumped in with all the defendants as accused pot-dealing money-launderers, they are the only two named in connection with Sonar.

Jeremy Landsman, a 32-year-old Baltimore developer who last year partnered with David Berg, of the Baltimore-based Berg Corporation demolition firm, to purchase the real estate where Sonar is located, and who is also the landlord for McIntosh’s other business–McCabe’s Restaurant in Hampden–was revealed in February to be a co-defendant in the case.

In the new superceding indictment, Landsman is not listed as a defendant, though he is mentioned as having participated in the conspiracy’s pot-dealing and money-laundering activities. Property records indicate that Anthony Thacker–one of Nicka’s aliases–gave a property on Weldon Avenue in Medfield to one of Landsman’s real-estate companies in 2008. That property, which Landsman’s company sold for $226,500* in 2009, is two doors down from the property that was posted to make McIntosh’s bail in the case.

McIntosh is the lone defendant in two of the new indictment’s 16 counts. They allege that, during 2008, he used property on Weldon Ave. to deal and use pot, and that, also in 2008, he traveled to and from California on pot business. Landsman’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, did not immediately return a phone call and e-mail for comment. A voice message left on Berg’s cellphone was not immediately returned. McIntosh’s attorney, Carmen Hernandez, wrote in an e-mail today that McIntosh continues to maintain his innocence.

The Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office does not comment on pending cases as a matter of policy. Nicka does not have an attorney on record in the case, and his whereabouts are unknown. The original indictment in the case listed 15 co-defendants. Six of them–Landsman, Andrew Sharpeta, Sean Costello, Daniel Fountain, Adam Constantinides, and Joseph Spain–are not on the roster of co-defendants in the new indictment.

Four of those no longer named–Sharpeta, Costello, Constantinides, and Spain–have entered plea agreements with the prosecution, and three–Sharpeta, Costello, and Constantinides–have already pleaded guilty to superceding charges.As City Paper reported in March, the Nicka indictment is tied to other cases in state and federal court in Maryland. Another Baltimore developer, 34-year-old Jacob Jeremiah Harryman, and 34-year-old Andrew Jin Park of Pikesville, are central figures in the investigation that connects the cases, which has been conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and the Baltimore County Police Department.

*An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed the sale price as “more than a quarter-million dollars.”

The Nose: Stoned Justice

By the Nose

Published in City Paper, June 26, 2013

Daniel McIntosh, the erstwhile co-owner of the erstwhile downtown nightclub Sonar and Hampden’s McCabe’s, is a thrice-convicted pot dealer, currently jailed and awaiting a possible life sentence for his part in a massive cross-country pot conspiracy involving 16 defendants, four of them still fugitives, that City Paper covered to death until the trial ended last fall. If McIntosh ever does leave prison, he’ll still be on the hook for $6.3 million-the amount U.S. District Judge Roger Titus, after hearing arguments from Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Johnston, ruled is attributable to McIntosh’s involvement in the scheme, and thus the amount McIntosh owes the government.

Geez, it’s just pot. A lot of it, yeah, but the Nose thinks this is a case of prosecutorial overkill-and defense attorneys recently pointed to evidence that it may even be a case of prosecutorial misconduct.

In this age of pot-law liberalization in numerous states, including Maryland, what’s going on in the McIntosh case looks way out of proportion. First off, there’s no hint of violence here, and absent that, the Nose thinks even repeatedly convicted pot dealers should be given a chance to someday resume their lives with the liberty that allows them to be productive. McIntosh is now 37, so a prison sentence much longer than the mandatory minimum of 10 years would hamper his chances of paying off the punishing financial debt he’ll owe the government.

Titus, in coming up with the $6.3 million figure, ruled that McIntosh procured the services of a truck driver, Phillip Parker, who on six occasions brought 300 to 600 pounds of pot from California to Maryland, and that McIntosh oversaw the delivery of another 304 pounds of pot from Canada. The jury also found that McIntosh participated in the conspiracy’s money-laundering activities but did not do so with respect to Sonar, in which the lead conspirator – Matthew Nicka (pictured below), who’s still at large – is alleged to have been a shadow partner.


Thus, McIntosh helped set up a multi-trip pot-trucking scheme and was in charge of one large shipment. One would think helping such high-volume movements of high-value contraband would yield a gold mine. But anybody who has even a faint familiarity with McIntosh’s lifestyle – while he was quite effective at making himself into an attention-grabbing vortex of nightlife buzz, the Nose believes McIntosh was devoid of millionaire pot-dealer trappings – would roll their eyes at the idea that McIntosh has ever been close to anything approaching $6 million. More like $60,000, maybe. Even then, the chump change likely would’ve disappeared into one of his skin-of-his-teeth entertainment schemes, leaving him virtually penniless.

By all appearances, McIntosh was a bit player here. Even if the Nose buys into the $6 million argument, compare that amount to what the conspiracy made. Prosecutors put its value at $30 million over about a decade, but that’s likely a major undercount. The Nose recently spoke to a person who was in the pot business with the defendants, and asked to remain anonymous, who estimated that the overall conspiracy pulled in $150 to $200 million a year. That’d make it more like a billion-dollar enterprise, with only $6 million tied to McIntosh.

It seems to the Nose that the lead prosecutor, Johnston, feels that McIntosh’s real crime was fighting the charges. Only McIntosh and one other defendant – Keegan Leahy, who was convicted for piloting aircraft that transported the conspiracy’s weed and cash, and in April was sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay $775,096.31, the amount Titus ruled was attributable to Leahy’s involvement – didn’t cop a plea. And for that, McIntosh, it seems, is paying dearly.

McIntosh was scheduled to be sentenced on June 12, but his attorney, Carmen Hernandez, won a motion for postponement (it’s currently scheduled for Sept. 18), in part because there was an outstanding “motion to disclose intercepted communications” to which Johnston had referred during Leahy’s April 1 sentencing. Then, on June 12, Leahy’s attorney, Michael Montemarano, went further, asking the judge to chuck the entire case “due to governmental misconduct” because “communications involving counsel, which referenced trial strategy, were intercepted and overheard by the government.”

The basis for the misconduct allegation arose during Leahy’s sentencing hearing, when Johnston stated that the government knows “for a fact that there’s been telephone communications” between defense attorneys and a Philadelphia lawyer named Michael Farrell. The statements suggest the government listened in on lawyers’ conversations about the case, and that’s a no-no that, if proven, may breach attorney-client privilege and poison the integrity of government’s entire case.

In response, Johnston said that DEA special agent Cindy Buskey did not find any improperly intercepted attorney-client communications when she reviewed case materials. Montemarano on June 20 shot back that Johnston’s response “entirely fails” to address the issue because it was Johnston, not Buskey, who had revealed the information.

“There is of course another possibility” in play here, Montemarano added: that Johnston’s “claims of purported knowledge” about the attorneys’ communications “could have been false, and knowingly so, when she made them on April 1.” Indeed, given Johnston’s response – that Buskey’s search yielded negative results – Montemarano wrote that “based upon the record, such falsity is the only alternative possible explanation” for Johnston’s statements.

In other words, Montemarano argues that Johnston either told the court false information about the attorneys’ communications or she’s failed to disclose how she could have known about them.

To risk torpedoing years of investigative and prosecutorial work in the case by providing ammunition for such dire defense claims seems like a prosecutorial mistake – but one that, given the out-of-whack penalties in the offing for McIntosh, may serve the larger interests of justice. After all, it’s just pot.

Baltimore Real-Estate Developer Jeremiah “Jeremy” Landsman Among Those Sentenced in Pot-Conspiracy Case

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, June 4, 2014

One of the more intriguing defendants in the 16-member federal pot-conspiracy case involving the shuttered Sonar nightclub in downtown Baltimore (“Risky Business,” Feature, Aug. 15, 2012) has been 32-year-old Jeremiah “Jeremy” Brandon Landsman, the Baltimore real-estate developer whose JBL Real Estate, based in Fells Point, is tied to several properties that figured in the case.

Before Landsman’s troubles in criminal court started after the Dec. 2010 indictment, and even afterwards, Landsman’s been a high-profile presence on the Baltimore real-estate scene, especially in the pages of Baltimore Business Journal, which twice in the past year featured him as a source in trend stories about falling rents for restaurants and taverns. Also, the Jewish Times in 2008 profiled Landsman and his father, Jeff Landsman, about their experience going into business together – a piece that is featured on JBL’s website.

Landsman’s legit-biz image as a young up-and-comer contrasts sharply with the charges against him, to which he pleaded guilty last June: conspiracy counts for laundering money and possessing with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of pot. Perhaps the milieu to which he’s more acclimated, given his conviction, was described in City Paper‘s prior Landsman coverage in 2006, when armed robbers hit an illegal Greektown poker game he was playing in – though Landsman claimed he wasn’t actually gambling (“Luck of the Draw,” Mobtown Beat, June 7, 2006).

Either way, Landsman now heads to prison for nearly five years – less than the maximum sentences for the pot conspiracy (not less than five years, but no more than 40 years, plus a $2 million fine) and the money-laundering conspiracy (20 years, plus a fine of whichever is greater: $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered property). On Jan. 7, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. District judge Roger Titus sentenced him to 57 months of incarceration followed by four years of supervised release, plus he must forfeit $200,000 and a cluster of garages behind Keswick Ave. in Hampden owned by one of his companies, JBL Keswick LLC. He’s due to report to prison on March 4.

In addition to the relatively light sentence he received, Landsman can count himself fortunate that he wasn’t charged with lying to a grand jury. In the factual statement attached to his guilty plea, he admits to making “several false statements” when he was subpoenaed to testify in October 2009, including about the identity of and his contacts with co-defendant David D’Amico (pictured below right)– who remains a fugitive – while D’Amico lived at a Hampden property at 3522 Hickory Ave. owned by a Landsman-related company; and about “his knowledge of and involvement in” the conspiracy, including its leader, Matt Nicka (pictured below left), who also remains a fugitive, and other members.

Landsman’s guilty plea is notable, as well, for its description of the money-laundering he engaged in, which made use of his resourcefulness as a real-estate developer. Between about June 2003 and August 2009, the plea says Landsman participated in “several financial transactions involving at least $400,000 but less than $1,000,000” in pot proceeds, and facilitated the “lease, purchase, and/or sale of property to, for, and between members of the conspiracy” in order to conceal “the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of drug proceeds, disguising the source of those funds and promoting the aims of the conspiracy” via properties owned by Landsman under seven limited-liability companies: JBL 2, JBL Aqua, JBL Keswick, JBL Services, 3520-22 Hickory, Weldon Chapel Properties, and McCabe-Falls. Public records indicate those companies own 46 properties in the Baltimore area – 24 in Hampden, 14 in Fells Point, one in West Baltimore near the Gwynns Falls, five in Mayfield, and two in Towson – though the plea does not specify which ones were tied to the conspiracy.

In addition to Landsman, several others who pleaded guilty in the conspiracy have been sentenced:

– On Nov. 19, Andrew Sharpeta and Ian Travis Minshall were sentenced, according to court records. Sharpeta, who pleaded guilty to participating in the pot and money-laundering conspiracies, received a 63-month prison sentence followed by five years of supervised release, and an order that he give up $7,800 in seized cash and pay a $242,200 judgment, representing the amount of proceeds he obtained due to the conspiracy. Minshall, who pleaded guilty to participating only in the pot conspiracy, got four years in prison followed by four years of supervised release, plus he was ordered to forfeit $25,000 in cash and to pay a judgment of $25,000, the amount he made in the conspiracy.

– On Dec. 10, Anthony Marcantoni, who pleaded guilty to participating in the pot conspiracy, got 121 months in prison followed by eight years of supervised release, plus a $500,000 money judgment against him and an order that he “forfeit all property obtained as a result of the drug trafficking,” according to a Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.

– On Dec. 20, Joseph Spain, who pleaded guilty to participating in the pot conspiracy, was sentenced to one day in prison, and given credit for time served, followed by four years of supervised release.

– On Jan. 3, Daniel Fountain, who pleaded guilty to participating in the pot and money-laundering conspiracies, was sentenced to eight years in prison followed by four years of supervised release, plus an order to forfeit $100,000, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Yet to be sentenced are the two defendants who took the case to trial and were found guilty – Daniel McIntosh and Keegan Leahy (Mobtown Beat, Nov. 7, 2012) – and four others: Sean Costello, Michael Phillips, Adam Constantinides, and Ryan Forman.

Descriptions of their roles in the scheme, based on their plea agreements, are here. In addition to Nicka and D’Amico, Gretchen Peterson and Jeff Putney remain fugitives.

Former Sonar Co-Owner Dan McIntosh Convicted, but Spared Mandatory Life Sentence

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, Nov. 7, 2012

After a 25-day trial, Daniel McIntosh and Keegan Leahy were convicted on Nov. 1 by a federal jury that was convinced each played roles in a 16-member pot-dealing and money-laundering conspiracy (“Risky Business,” Feature, Aug. 15)—but not all the roles prosecutors alleged.

For McIntosh, the erstwhile co-owner of Sonar, the shuttered downtown Baltimore nightclub, the verdict means he will be spared the mandatory life sentence he would have faced, thanks to his prior pot convictions, if he’d been convicted of dealing 1,000 kilograms or more of weed (The News Hole, Sept. 13). Instead, the jury held him accountable for 100 kilograms or more, so he’s facing a mandatory minimum of 10 years, with the possibility of life.

The jury was not informed of the fact that one of the drug witnesses who took the stand against McIntosh, Andrew Lloyd, tested positive for heroin shortly after testifying (“Drug Test Shows McIntosh Trial Witness on Heroin,” Mobtown Beat, Oct. 24), which McIntosh’s attorney, Carmen Hernandez, sought to introduce as evidence.

McIntosh was also convicted of helping the conspiracy launder money, though not in connection with Sonar—the trial evidence of Sonar’s cash deposits being connected to drug dealing appeared flimsy (“Dollars and Sense,” Mobtown Beat, Oct. 17). He was also acquitted of maintaining drug-involved premises at Sonar and at a house on Weldon Avenue in Medfield, but was found guilty of interstate travel to promote crime.

Leahy, meanwhile, faces a maximum five-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute less than 50 kilograms of pot and for interstate travel to promote crime. He was acquitted of money-laundering charges. He has no prior criminal convictions, so will likely be punished leniently.

Both men are scheduled to be sentenced on April 1, according to Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson Marcia Murphy, who adds that McIntosh, who was free pending trial, is now jailed until then, while Leahy will remain on release.

Dollars and Sense: McIntosh trial includes flimsy evidence of pot-money laundering at Sonar

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, Oct. 17, 2012


Before the Sept. 11 start of the federal pot-conspiracy trial involving Daniel McIntosh, the erstwhile co-owner of Sonar nightclub in downtown Baltimore, prosecutors already had proven much about the alleged $30 million, Baltimore-based, cross-country marijuana business in which McIntosh is accused of participating (“Risky Business,” Feature, Aug. 15). They had, after all, secured guilty pleas from 10 co-defendants, who admitted to a large body of facts about the nearly decade-long scheme. But proving beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury the criminal accusations they’ve leveled against McIntosh and Keegan Leahy, the alleged operation’s pilot, who is also on trial, has been a complex undertaking – and not without pitfalls.

A central challenge for the prosecutors – assistant U.S. attorneys Deborah Johnston and Mara Greenberg – has been that, in essence, they are staging two trials: one against McIntosh and the other against Leahy, as the two men occupy distinct corners of the alleged conspiracy. McIntosh is accused of laundering drug money through Sonar and of picking up, delivering, and unloading pot shipments to Maryland-essentially a hands-on, street-level role in Baltimore, relatively far down the organizational chart. Leahy, meanwhile, is accused of helping to purchase, operate, and rent airplanes, which he piloted, to transport pot and cash across the country-a higher level role, involving some of the alleged conspiracy’s top leaders, and having very little to do with Baltimore other than occasionally touching down at airports in the region.

Putting on such a case has been further complicated by the efforts of McIntosh’s court-appointed attorney, Carmen Hernandez, to undermine the testimony of an important government witness: Timothy Green, an Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator.

Green probed the bank accounts of McIntosh and Sonar, ostensibly proving to the jury that, as he put it on the witness stand, McIntosh made “cash deposits commingled with proceeds derived from the sale of drugs.” To do so, Green prepared a summary chart of his findings, showing cash deposits made in six bank accounts, four of them in Sonar’s name, in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Even though Sonar was a cash-heavy business, based on its large crowd of alcohol-purchasing patrons, Green testified that such large cash deposits are evidence of drug-money laundering.

The problem, though, as Hernandez showed the jury, is that Green’s chart failed to include about $82,643 in cash deposits made in 2007 just prior to McIntosh’s control of the accounts-thus making it appear that large cash deposits only started after McIntosh took the reins. What’s more, the chart did not include cash deposits made to Sonar’s accounts during 2006, when Sonar’s bank accounts were controlled by its prior owner, Lonnie Fisher. During that year, Hernandez showed, Sonar’s accounts had $616,378.25 in cash deposits-more than the approximately $500,000 in cash deposits that were made during the entire three years that Green investigated when McIntosh controlled the accounts.

“McIntosh’s money was pot money, but Lonnie Fisher’s money wasn’t?” Hernandez asked. She added, “there were the same, or more, in cash deposits in 2006 – does that give you pause as to your conclusion [that McIntosh was laundering drug money]?” Green responded, “No.”

In addition, Green looked at McIntosh’s personal bank account and one in the name of another business he controlled, Independent Investments, Inc. The cash deposits made to McIntosh’s personal account amounted to $48,100 over three years, an average of $16,033 per year, Green testified. The Independent Investments account, meanwhile, had a total of about $40,000 in cash deposits during those three years.

“Doesn’t sound like 1,000-kilogram marijuana-conspirator money, does it?” Hernandez asked. Green demurred on that question, but when Hernandez pointed out that the man at the top of the conspiracy – Matthew Nicka (pictured), who remains a fugitive – made $16 million over one and a half years, Green confirmed the information. “I had heard that, yes,” he said.

McIntosh has much at stake in the trial. He has four prior pot-related convictions-three from 1998, when he was charged as a result of an investigation in Hanover, Pa., and one in 2005 in Baltimore County. Prosecutors will use them, presumably, to color McIntosh as a shameless, long-term pot dealer. The most dire consequence of McIntosh’s prior convictions, though, may kick in if the jury finds him guilty of possessing with intent to distribute 1,000 or more kilograms of weed. If that happens, federal sentencing law* dictate he serve a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

*Correction: McIntosh’s attorney, Carmen Hernandez, points out that federal law, not federal sentencing guidelines, require a mandatory life sentence should McIntosh be convicted of possessing with the intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, due to his prior convictions.

Judgment Day: Dan McIntosh’s pot-conspiracy co-defendants to be sentenced in the coming days

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Nov. 14, 2012


Now that a federal trial jury has found former Sonar co-owner Daniel McIntosh and Keegan Leahy guilty of some of the counts against them (Mobtown Beat, Nov. 7) in the massive, 16-defendant indictment alleging a cross-country, decade-long pot-dealing conspiracy (“Risky Business,” Feature, Aug. 15), the rest of the defendants who answered the charges with guilty pleas will soon meet their fates.

Four – Matt Nicka (pictured above), Gretchen Peterson, David D’Amico (pictured below), and Jeffrey Putney – remain fugitives and, thus, will suffer the peculiar penalty of being on the run. But the 10 who pleaded guilty before trial are scheduled to receive their sentences in the coming weeks and months.


What follows describes the facts each admits is true, the counts to which they pleaded guilty, and the dates and times of their scheduled sentencing hearings, if available. All of the hearings will take place before U.S. District Judge Roger Titus in Courtroom 2C of the U.S. District Courthouse in Greenbelt, Md., located at 6500 Cherrywood Lane.

Joseph Spain

Alias: “Goose”

Scheduled sentencing: TBD

Guilty count: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.

Admitted facts under plea agreement: From about March 2008 until about March 2009, Spain served the conspiracy as a truck driver, bringing seven loads of weed to Maryland from California. He did so at the behest of Sharpeta and “solicited his brother Jeffrey Spain to assist with some of the trips.” The first trip was a 50-pound “test load” of pot, and the remaining six “ranged from 100 to 300 pounds.”

Amount of weed attributed to Spain: at least 400 kilograms, but less than 700 kilograms.

Sean Costello

Alias: “Chong”

Scheduled sentencing: TBD

Guilty counts: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Admitted facts under plea agreement: There were two time frames for Costello’s involvement in the conspiracy: from about January 2003 until August 2006, and from the spring of 2008 to June 2009. During his first stint, Costello was busted while bringing about 30 pounds of pot on a train from Baltimore to Florida for D’Amico. During his second stint, Costello worked with D’Amico and Leahy, a pilot, to set up a business that owned and operated a small jet for transporting pot and money back and forth across the country and also helped the conspiracy launder money.

Amount of weed attributed to Costello: at least 400 kilograms.

Pot proceeds received by Costello: at least $50,000.

Michael Phillips

Scheduled sentencing: Jan. 15, 8:30 A.M.

Guilty count: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.

Admitted facts under plea agreement: Phillips was “a mid-level dealer and distributor” who, between 2008 and July 2009, obtained pot from co-conspirators and distributed it in Pennsylvania. He arranged for deliveries via Peterson and traveled to Baltimore to pick them up from Andrew Sharpeta and others. On April 20, 2011, when he was arrested, Phillips acknowledged his role in the scheme.

Amount of weed attributed to Phillips: more than 100 kilograms, but less than 400 kilograms.

Andrew Sharpeta

Aliases: “Ken Thomas,” “Bird”

Scheduled sentencing: Nov. 19, 9 A.M.

Guilty counts: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Admitted facts under plea agreement: Sharpeta was “directly involved with all aspects of the marijuana conspiracy” from about June 2008 to about June 2009, “including collecting monies, arranging for the transportation and storage of marijuana by airplane and tractor trailer, receiving orders for marijuana, transporting bulk currency to marijuana suppliers, and delivering large quantities of marijuana to mid-level dealers in and around Baltimore.” He also laundered money by participating in transactions “designed to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership and control” of the pot-dealing proceeds, including “transporting bulk currency across state lines, renting a warehouse under an alias for the receipt, division, and distribution of marijuana, and purchasing a van for the storage and transport of large quantities of marijuana.”

Amount of weed attributed to Sharpeta: more than 1,000 kilograms, but less than 3,000 kilograms.

Pot proceeds received by Sharpeta: about $250,000.

Ian Travis Minshall

Scheduled sentencing: Nov. 19, 12 P.M.

Guilty count: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.

Admitted facts under plea agreement: Minshall was a “mid-level dealer and distributor” for the conspiracy who “maintained” a property – 3835 Falls Road, owned by a company tied to co-conspirator Jeremiah Landsman – “for the purpose of storing and distributing marijuana.” In March 2009, Baltimore County police raided the place and seized 32 pounds of pot, nearly $16,000 in cash, digital scales, and two cell phones, all of which Minshall admits was part of the conspiracy.

Adam Constantinides

Aliases: “Matthew Thomas Anderson,” “Mike,” “Bossman,” “Ted,” and “A.D.D.”

Scheduled sentencing: Nov. 19, 3 P.M.

Guilty counts: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Admitted facts under plea agreement: A “mid-level dealer and distributor” for the conspiracy, Constantinides from 2002 until March 2009 handled “substantial quantities” of pot in Maryland: from 10 to 35 pounds every two weeks “when marijuana was in season,” and “up to 50 pounds on at least one occasion,” paying between $2,600 and $4,000 per pound. In addition, from 2006 until March 2009, Constantinides helped the conspiracy manage its money, using proceeds to rent vehicles and lease space to transport and store marijuana.

Amount of weed attributed to Constantinides: at least 700 kilograms.

Pot proceeds received by Constantinides: at least $50,000.

Anthony Marcantoni

Alias: “Mr. Purple”

Scheduled sentencing: Dec. 10, 3 P.M.

Guilty count: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.

Admitted facts under plea agreement: From 2008 through January 2011, Marcantoni “regularly obtained large shipments of marijuana” – from 50 to 250 pounds, as often as twice per month – “and also arranged for other individuals to receive large shipments on his behalf.” He received deliveries “at various locations in Baltimore,” including “the parking lot outside of the Whole Foods in the Mount Washington neighborhood.” He paid his pot suppliers “more than ten times,” giving them “more than $100,000” on “multiple occasions.” Marcantoni’s main supplier awarded his “performance selling marijuana” with “a Rolex watch.”

Amount of weed attributed to Marcantoni: more than 700 kilograms, but less than 1,000 kilograms.

Daniel Fountain

Alias: Danny Boy

Scheduled sentencing: Dec. 18, 2 P.M.

Guilty counts: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Admitted facts under plea agreement: Fountain, “a mid-level dealer and distributor” for the conspiracy, rented a Landsman-owned house on Hickory Avenue in Hampden and subleased it to D’Amico. When the house was raided in March 2009, law enforcers found much evidence to advance their probe, including more than 100 pounds of pot, $20,000 in cash, 31 cell phones, and records about the small jet that Costello, D’Amico, and Leahy were purchasing to help transport weed and cash. From 2003 until August 2009, Fountain helped the conspiracy manage its money by handling rental payments for property used to stash pot and proceeds, using “at least one art gallery that he owned to conceal and launder proceeds,” and attempting to purchase the Hickory Avenue property from Landsman.

Like Landsman, Fountain also lied to the federal grand jury investigating the conspiracy. At his August 2009 appearance before the jury, for which he was subpoenaed, Fountain made “several false statements,” including “lying about D’Amico’s identity, how D’Amico came to rent” the Hickory Avenue property, and “his contact with D’Amico” while D’Amico lived there. Fountain “also presented a false and fraudulent lease agreement to the grand jury.”

Finally, Fountain went on the lam “for over a year” after the case was first indicted in December 2010, “living under an alias. While fleeing from the U.S. Marshal’s Service, at times Fountain abandoned property, used eight different cell phones, and obtained a government-issued identification in the name of his false identity.”

Ryan Forman

Scheduled sentencing: Dec. 19, 11:30 A.M.

Guilty counts: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Admitted facts under plea agreement: From 2006 until March 2009, Forman “assisted the conspiracy by locating and introducing large-scale local distributors to receive and distribute marijuana in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.” He also assisted with the rental and purchase of aircraft the conspiracy used to move pot and cash back and forth across the country, and came to Maryland at least twice “to deliver multiple Rolex watches to Nicka,” who “gave them to his co-conspirators as Christmas bonuses.” Forman also helped manage the conspiracy’s pot proceeds, depositing about $430,000 in cash into bank accounts and transferring proceeds to other accounts so it could be used to rent or purchase aircraft. In all, the money-laundering transactions involving Forman amounted to “more than $400,000 but not more than $1,000,000 in proceeds of the marijuana conspiracy.”

Amount of weed attributed to Forman: over 400 kilograms, but less than 700 kilograms.

Jeremiah Landsman

Alias: Jeremy Landsman

Scheduled sentencing: Jan. 7, 2 P.M.

Guilty counts: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Admitted facts under plea agreement: Landsman, a Baltimore developer who operates a host of companies related to his JBL Real Estate, headquartered in Fells Point, “personally distributed at least 100 kilograms of marijuana, brokered other conspirators’ purchases of marijuana, and maintained several properties used for marijuana storage and distribution.”

Between about June 2003 and August 2009, Landsman helped the conspiracy launder money by participating in “several financial transactions involving at least $400,000 but less than $1,000,000 in proceeds of the marijuana conspiracy.” Among the methods he used was to facilitate the “lease, purchase, and/or sale of property to, for, and between members of the conspiracy” in order to conceal “the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of drug proceeds, disguising the source of those funds and promoting the aims of the conspiracy” via properties owned by Landsman under seven limited-liability companies: JBL 2, JBL Aqua, JBL Keswick, JBL Services, 3520-22 Hickory, Weldon Chapel Properties, and McCabe-Falls.

Landsman also lied to the federal grand jury investigating the conspiracy when he was subpoenaed to testify in October 2009, making “several false statements,” including “lying about D’Amico’s identity, his contact with D’Amico” while D’Amico lived at a Hampden property at 3522 Hickory Ave. that was owned by a Landsman-related company, and “his knowledge of and involvement with” Nicka. Landsman “further lied about his knowledge of and involvement in” the marijuana conspiracy, “as well as his knowledge of and involvement [with] several members” of the conspiracy.