CannaCrime: Last Defendant in Decade-Old Maryland Federal Pot Case Arrested in Nevada

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 29, 2019

Ten years ago, Jeffrey Putney was almost 40 and about to start life on the lam, thanks to his alleged part in a massive coast-to-coast illegal pot conspiracy based in Baltimore. When the chips began to fall in March 2009, Putney, driving his Toyota 4Runner out of Fells Point, unwittingly led law enforcers to the location that blew the case open: 3522 Hickory Ave. in Hampden, where they found evidence of the many, many millions of dollars the enterprise generated and needed to launder. Putney was arrested on Baltimore City charges, released, and disappeared.


(Jeffrey Putney, in a photo taken before he fled federal charges unsealed in 2010, and provided courtesy of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.)

On Jan. 11, Putney reappeared in a federal courtroom in Reno, Nevada, putting an end to his long run as the last remaining fugitive of the federal pot-dealing-and-money-laundering conspiracy led by Matt Nicka, who was picked up in Canada in 2013, not long after another top defendant, David D’Amico, was extradited from Colombia. Nicka, his wife Gretchen Peterson, and D’Amico pleaded guilty and were sentenced in 2016, and Nicka is now serving a 15-year prison sentence.

The case involved 16 defendants in all, and all pleaded guilty except for two: pilot Keegan Leahy and Baltimore nightclub impressario Daniel McIntosh, whom jurors found guilty of some, but not all, of the charges against them. Leahy’s prison term ended in 2015, and McIntosh is scheduled for release in July 2020, according to U.S. Bureau of Prisons records, while another defendant, Anthony Marcantoni is set to be freed a month later. Many of the defendants have already served their sentences and moved on with their lives.

Putney is accused of helping the Nicka conspiracy move quantities of cannabis around, which is exactly what he allegedly was doing when he drove to the Hampden house and dropped off three boxes he’d obtained at Aliceanna and Bond streets in Fells Point from Adam Constantinides, another co-defendant, who was released from his prison stint in 2016. Constantinides, meanwhile, had picked up the boxes at a storage facility on Wilkens Ave. to deliver them to Putney.

“During the surveillance,” investigative documents filed in the case state, “Constantinides and Putney constantly used counter-surveillance techniques, including driving down dead-end streets, making frequent U-turns, and cutting through parking lots.” Testimony at the Leahy-McIntosh trial also described Putney allegedly involved in unloading pot stashed in golf bags from an airplane at Martin Airport in Baltimore County.

After Putney was observed dropping the boxes at the Hickory Ave. house and was arrested, agents got a warrant to search the property and found almost 100 pounds of pot, about 30 cell phones, four money-counters, two scales, $20,000 in cash, money wrappers, drug tally sheets reflecting transactions involving more than $1.5 million, documents about an aircraft purchase, and paperwork about prices and amounts of drugs and the names of customers and suppliers. It was the mother lode that helped break the case, and Putney led them right to it.

FSC discovered the fact of Putney’s recent arrest by chance, while at the Baltimore federal courthouse yesterday searching PACER, the federal court-records database, to see if federal prosecutors in Maryland had any open pot-conspiracy cases on the dockets. It appears they do not, and FSC has asked the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office to confirm that fact and provide any available details about the circumstances of Putney’s arrest. FSC will update when and if new information comes to light.




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.

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.

Former Sonar and Talking Head co-owner Dan McIntosh got the best pot-conspiracy sentence he could: a decade in prison.

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, Mar. 26, 2014

When law enforcers first picked up Daniel Gerard McIntosh in 2011 on charges that he was involved in a massive cross-country, decade-long pot-trafficking and money-laundering conspiracy, he failed to recognize how much trouble he was facing, according to the lead prosecutor in the federal case against him and 15 others, Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Johnston. McIntosh, Johnston said in court on March 20, told his arresting officers: “Listen, I don’t believe for one minute my government’s going to sentence me to life in prison for selling marijuana.”

It turns out McIntosh, a co-owner of the now-defunct downtown Baltimore nightclubs Sonar and Talking Head, as well as McCabe’s in Hampden, was right.

At McIntosh’s sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, Md., U.S. District Judge Roger Titus ended up giving him the statutorily mandated 10-year minimum sentence, followed by eight years of supervised release. Prosecutors had sought 20 years – a term Titus called “way in excess” of what McIntosh’s conduct deserved.

But until Titus pronounced McIntosh’s sentence just after 2 p.m., after about four hours of proceedings, the threat of being in prison until his 70th birthday approached, or even dying there, theoretically hung over the 38-year-old’s head.

Under the federal sentencing guidelines, tabulated as a result of rulings Titus made during the hearing about McIntosh’s criminal history and the amounts of pot ascribed to him as part of the conspiracy, as well as his role in the enterprise, McIntosh should be getting 30 years to life in prison. As Titus remarked after he’d determined the categories into which McIntosh falls, the guidelines’ calculation “produces a big number,” whereupon McIntosh’s court-appointed attorney, Carmen Hernandez, exclaimed “Outrageous!”

In the end, though, Titus called the 30-to-life recommendation “greatly in excess” of what McIntosh deserved and indicated that even the mandatory 10-year sentence was too harsh, saying a “10-year sentence for what this man has been involved in is a very stiff sentence.”

While McIntosh was convicted of conspiring to traffic in 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, participating in a money-laundering conspiracy, and interstate travel in aid of the conspiracy, the jury at his six-week trial in the fall of 2012 acquitted him of participating at a higher, 1,000-kilogram-or-more level, laundering money through Sonar, and maintaining Sonar and a house in Medfield as drug-involved premises.

In an apparent attempt to take the edge off the sentence, Titus promised to make recommendations to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons that “could reduce time” for McIntosh, saying there is “something salvageable about this defendant” and that “I have hope for you,” predicting he could “emerge from this a better man. It’s up to you.”

McIntosh has been incarcerated since his conviction in late 2012, so his release date should come in 2022 – or earlier, should he qualify for the limited early-release options afforded by the federal prison system.

During the hearing, Hernandez made impassioned factual arguments gleaned from evidence in the case, determining that the amount of pot McIntosh actually had been responsible for was 136 to 318 kilograms rather than the 2,066 kilograms Johnston had estimated to the court. Hernandez also tried mightily to persuade Titus that several of McIntosh’s prior convictions should not be counted in calculating whether he should be dubbed a career criminal, triggering the 10-year mandatory minimum, and that McIntosh was a “worker” in the conspiracy, not a “manager or supervisor,” as Johnston asserted.

Ultimately, Titus held McIntosh responsible for 954 kilograms of weed-the amount he’d determined after a hearing last year that resulted in a $6.3 million preliminary forfeiture order against McIntosh, which became permanent with his sentencing. Titus also agreed with Johnston that McIntosh was a manager or supervisor and dubbed him a career offender.

While Titus did not include in his calculations McIntosh’s 2004 Baltimore County pot-related conviction, ruling it was part of the conspiracy charged in the current case, he counted four others: a 2004 Baltimore City valium-possession conviction and three pot-related convictions in York County, Pa., arising from conduct committed over a one-month period in 1998 that had resulted in a two-year prison sentence.

The top three members charged in the conspiracy have not yet appeared to face the charges. Matt Nicka and Gretchen Peterson were arrested last summer in Canada, and David D’Amico, according to a press release from the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s office, is awaiting extradition from Colombia. A fourth, Jeffrey Putney, presumably remains a fugitive. Johnston told Titus during McIntosh’s hearing that some of those still awaiting their fate in the case will appear before him “in the hopefully not too distant future.”

When McIntosh entered the courtroom at the beginning of the day’s proceedings, his most obvious health problem – degenerative arthritis – was manifest: He limped in, aided by a cane. He also suffers from Lyme disease, Hernandez said during the hearing. When McIntosh made his statement to Titus, given while seated rather than standing, as is customary, due to his infirmity, he opened with a reference to the loquaciousness which earned him the nickname “Talking Dan.”

“First of all,” said McIntosh, still bearing his trademark mustache and soul patch, “I’d like to apologize because it is going to be difficult for me to speak, which is new to me.” He proceeded to sketch out a difficult childhood when he “felt abandoned by my father,” which “made me callous and mean.” This upbringing prompted him to seek solace in intoxicants at an early age, starting with beer and cigarettes at 11 years old, progressing by the time he was 17 to “crack, heroin, everything,” he explained, since he found that, through drugs, “I could alter how bad I felt.” He had “no reason to trust anyone” and “wound up in jail,” an “absolute hell” that he “came out [of] knowing that I had to do something better.” Though “I knew that I couldn’t fix everything,” he “had to take steps,” and he now wishes “that I had made them faster.”

“I got off [hard] drugs but I was still miserable,” McIntosh continued. “Music literally saved my life,” he explained, crediting Bob Dylan and other titans of the modern music pantheon as “my teachers,” helping him to “figure out a new way of thinking” and to “find a way of not being so abrasive.” McIntosh “obviously still was involved in marijuana,” he explained, and those “were not good choices,” but at the time, he thought “I could not inflict pain on people” by being so involved-“I have a different view of it now,” he said.

Eventually, as the years passed, “music and art gave me a place to be helpful.” He found that “I could be somebody, for the first time in my life, that I could be proud of”-though “not without mistakes.” He learned that “my most important job was actually my children,” and “the fact that this is happening is almost unimaginable.”

He tearfully told Titus that “when you love your children as much as I love mine, sir, two days away from them . . . 10 years, 20 years . . . I don’t know how my mind can even comprehend that.” Confirming the words Johnston attributed to him when he was first arrested, McIntosh told Titus that “I had no sense that I would ever get into this kind of trouble” and that “I was so stupid for not understanding the possibility of 20, 30, life.”

McIntosh also broke down in tears as numerous people testified on his behalf, pleading for the judge’s mercy. The principal of the Medfield school attended by McIntosh’s children called him a “decent and generous man” as he described the toll McIntosh’s post-trial incarceration since late 2012 had taken on their school performance. A businessman who coordinates volunteers for local shelters, who spoke of McIntosh “perpetually volunteering,” called him “contrite” and “a good guy.”

Roman Kuebler, McIntosh’s former partner in Talking Head and the frontman of the Oranges Band, credited McIntosh for having “really validated all of the things I’ve been doing in my life with art and music.” McIntosh’s stepfather called him a “difficult teenager” who “turned himself around” to become “an excellent father.” His wife, Danielle McIntosh, implored for leniency, saying “I really need my partner back,” as “I don’t have any help” raising their children.

John Bourgeois, a prominent Baltimore criminal-defense attorney, spoke highly of McIntosh at the hearing, describing him to Titus as “forthright and candid”-and called the guideline sentence of 30 years to life “horrific, out of all proportion in a civilized society.”

The 10-year mandatory minimum, Bourgeois added, “is a massive sentence.”

In an email to City Paper after the hearing, Bourgeois opined that “the government took an especially harsh approach to Dan because he insisted upon standing on his Constitutional rights by putting the government to its proof” and that “the sentence vindicates Dan’s decision to go to trial” because “my understanding is that Judge Titus sentenced Dan to substantially less time than the government offered in plea negotiations.”


Titus explained that part of his job at sentencing is to “avoid disparities” in penalties given the various co-defendants in a case, while assuring that a message of deterrence is delivered-and Hernandez tried to assist by pointing out the fates of others caught up in the investigation that snared McIntosh. One in particular she singled out: Jacob Jeremiah Harryman, a real-estate developer who was one of the first people arrested among many, though he was not charged in the federal case.

Hernandez told the court that Harryman was videotaped by detectives saying he got “a million dollars a month” at the height of his pot-dealing, yet today he is “out on the street.” Harryman “was not a nice man,” Hernandez said, yet “he got to keep most of that money” and “was way over Mr. McIntosh in terms of profit and drug-dealing,” asking “is that the message” of deterrence that should be sent?

Harryman, reached by phone, said he had “no comment” about Hernandez’s characterizations. Court records show he currently has an electrical-contracting company that recently settled a lawsuit over unpaid wages to nine workers-though a tenth one continues to press the matter.

During the hearing, Titus went down the list of McIntosh’s co-defendants who have already been sentenced-all but one of whom accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty rather than go trial. Andrew Sharpeta, Titus said, got 63 months in prison after cooperating and testifying at trial. Sean Costello got 57 months, and Daniel Fountain got 96 months. Ian Travis Minshall, who got 48 months, was “comically stupid,” Titus said, for continuing his pot-dealing career after using it to pay his way through West Virginia University. Michael Phillips got 70 months, and Ryan Foreman got two years. Jeremiah “Jeremy” Landsman, a Baltimore developer who procured properties useful for the conspirators’ drug-dealing operations and helped launder money, got 57 months. Adam Constantinides cooperated and got 70 months. Joseph Spain, who had “very grave health problems,” Titus explained, got a one-day sentence, deemed already served. Titus called Keegan Leahy, who got 36 months after being convicted of some charges at trial with McIntosh, a “foolish man” who piloted airplanes in support of the conspiracy.

Of those convicted, Titus had the most damning words for Anthony Marcantoni, a previously convicted pot dealer who did five years in federal prison and came out to open Ground Control Academy martial-arts studio in Owings Mills-while also immediately resuming work as a pot dealer. Marcantoni “did not please me at all,” Titus said, calling him an “absolutely incorrigible person” who benefited from a “very generous plea agreement” obtained through “skilled negotiations,” resulting in “the highest sentence in this case so far,” 121 months-a month more than McIntosh.

Hernandez sought to minimize McIntosh’s role compared to these others, saying he did not, as others did, use fake identification; go on the lam; have attorneys’ fees paid by Nicka; or perjure himself to the grand jury investigating the matter, as did Landsman and Fountain (who also ran from the charges until being caught and brought back from California). Hernandez argued that “perjury before a grand jury is more damning to our system of justice than marijuana.”


McIntosh realized “so little enrichment” from his involvement in the conspiracy, Hernandez continued, that “it just boggles the mind that he is the person the government paints.” She added that Sharpeta, Minshall, and Landsman were “people who were integrally involved” and that “this conspiracy could not have run without them,” but McIntosh “had stopped” his involvement “more than two years” before the indictment came down in late 2010.

Johnston, though, while asserting “this is a sad day for all of us” and that she has “deep sympathy” for McIntosh’s wife and children, urged a long sentence for McIntosh. “He got a second chance” after his Pennsylvania convictions landed him in prison for two years, she said, but “he ignored that.” McIntosh’s crimes caused harm, Johnston said, because “we don’t know how many kids” ended up smoking the pot he dealt, causing them to miss school and waste opportunities for advancement, “so there is still an impact on the community.” And while the other conspirators “accepted responsibility,” McIntosh “has not done that,” which is “the first step” to rehabilitation. Given “the harm he has done” due to “his own selfish acts,” she urged a 20-year sentence, “well below the guideline range” of 30 years to life.

After the hearing, while chatting with well-wishers and McIntosh’s family and friends in the courthouse parking lot, Hernandez was almost embarrassed to be celebrating the outcome. “It’s a warped system,” she said, “that, for a non-violent marijuana offender, I’m celebrating that he got 10 years.”

Late to the Party: David D’Amico Extradited From Colombia To Answer 2010 Federal Pot-Trafficking And Money-Laundering Indictment In Maryland

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Sept. 9, 2014


David D’Amico turned 50 a week before his Aug. 28 appearance in Maryland U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, where he consented to pre-trial detention in a massive 2010 pot-trafficking and money-laundering case in which most of his 15 co-defendants—including Daniel McIntosh, co-owner of defunct Baltimore nightclub Sonar—are serving prison sentences. He looked a shadow of his formerly beefy, smiling self, as seen in the “Most Wanted” photo of him distributed by the U.S. Marshals Service in early 2013 (pictured), when he was a fugitive. Now, having been extradited from Colombia, D’Amico looks gaunt and tired—every day of his age, and then some. Five years on the run seems to have depleted him.

D’Amico’s name is peppered throughout the voluminous transcripts of the seven-week trial in the case, which ended on Nov. 1, 2012, when McIntosh and Canadian pilot Keegan Leahy were convicted of several charges—though acquitted of the most serious ones—that they have since appealed. D’Amico was described as a top player in the decade-long, cross-country, $30-million scheme, the man who oversaw its day-to-day operations in three arenas—transportation, wholesale distribution, and finance and real estate—and harbored ambitions of taking the reins from the conspiracy’s overall leader, Matt Nicka, who now, along with his wife, Gretchen Peterson, is in the hands of Canadian authorities as the U.S. seeks their return to face the charges.

With D’Amico’s extradition from Colombia and appearance in Maryland federal court, a jury may yet get to weigh the evidence against him. Neither D’Amico’s court-appointed attorneys—Richard Finci and Jennifer Mayer—nor assistant U.S. attorney Deborah Johnston would comment on the case, but existing court records bring the story of D’Amico’s alleged dealings into tight focus.

The D’Amico narrative that played out before the McIntosh/Leahy jury started in early 2000s, when co-defendant Sean Costello—an energy consultant from Hawaii at the time of his 2012 guilty plea in the case—was D’Amico’s roommate from 2003 to 2005. Costello recalled for the jury that D’Amico was a concert promoter and day-trader in stocks who sold concessions at large events like the Ultra Music Festival in Miami. In 2003, after “a Phish concert in Miami” where “we did our normal orange juice plus alcohol sales,” Costello said, he, D’Amico, and Nicka “started distributing weed” at a rate of “50 to 100 pounds per month,” with Costello helping move it from Baltimore to Atlanta and Miami, and “money back the other direction.”

At this stage, Costello continued, Nicka would call “breakfast” meetings in “downtown Baltimore” between “most of the people in the conspiracy”—anywhere from six to 10 people, including D’Amico—where they “just caught up with each other personally.” While they ate and socialized, Nicka would “talk with people individually and pull them outside” to discuss “how many pounds of weed they needed or wanted” and “how much money they owed Matt for said weed.”

The last such meeting Costello attended was in June 2005, he testified, because “I was arrested either that day or the day after” by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration while “on a train from Baltimore to Miami” with “24 pounds of marijuana” that belonged to D’Amico and Nicka. D’Amico paid for Costello’s attorney and offered him “50 grand” if “I kept my mouth shut,” Costello recalled. He did, in a sense—Costello admitted he actually told agents a mixture of truth and lies about the pot’s provenance, saying he’d gotten it from a “an over-weight white male of Russian decent” at the train station, and that he was being paid $2,000 by a someone he only knew as “Man”—and served six months’ incarceration in Florida for the crime.

In early 2007, after Costello’s release, D’Amico dropped in on him in Orlando, Florida, and “was trying to convince me to get back into selling and distributing weed,” Costello testified. D’Amico drove him to meet with Nicka in Jensen Beach, Florida, and “I think Matt assumed that I was going to get back into helping them sell and distribute weed, which I didn’t want to do at the time,” Costello continued.

A little over a year later, in May 2008, though, Costello helped the conspiracy by introducing D’Amico to a pilot—Leahy—to fly pot and money back and forth across the country. “Back in 2004, 2005,” he explained, “we had always been looking for a pilot so that we could fly instead of drive, because there’s quite a bit of money that was seized by the government during that time for traffic stops” and “you can’t get pulled over by the cops in the air.”

Costello had gotten to know Leahy after they’d first met in 2006, when they explored developing a solar energy plant in south Florida. Leahy “fit the personality type of the people that we work with,” Costello explained, adding that he “seemed cool” and that he “was the only pilot I knew.”  So “I asked him if he wanted to fly for a friend of mine,” Costello continued, but “I wasn’t going to tell him that it was distributing thousands of pounds of weed.”

Shortly after Costello introduced D’Amico to Leahy, the three set out to buy an airplane, a Lancair IV-P, and title it in the name of a company they formed, Air Sky Holdings. Before it ever made a trip for the conspiracy, though, Leahy damaged it so badly in a crash that it was never used. So Leahy instead piloted a leased Cessna 400, the fastest single-engine production aircraft on the market, and by all appearances he was simply D’Amico’s personal pilot—though Costello pointed out that, given the strong and distinctive odor that loads of pot give off, it would be hard not to suspect what was inside of the bags with which D’Amico travelled. When the bags were filled with cash, Costello testified that they held up to “$500,000 at a time.”

Costello eventually wanted out of the arrangement, he testified, and in February 2009 met D’Amico in Boston “to get rid of my responsibility with Air Sky Holdings” and “dump everything on to Dave hopefully.” It didn’t work, though, and in early March, 2009, Costello met D’Amico in Baltimore at D’Amico’s rented house on Hickory Avenue in Hampden—a house owned by a company controlled by co-defendant Jeremiah “Jeremy” Landsman, a Baltimore real-estate developer who is currently in prison after pleading guilty in the case—and watched as a load of pot was shipped into and out of the house. Then, Costello continued, he, D’Amico, Leahy, and another person went to “some state airport . . . near Baltimore” and tried, unsuccessfully due to the snowy weather, to fly out with a duffel bag full of money. The inside of the plane, Costello said, “smelled like weed.”


A few weeks later, D’Amico summoned Costello and Leahy to San Francisco. “He seemed very agitated,” Costello recalled. It turned out that the Hickory Avenue house had been raided by police, who had found nearly 100 pounds of pot, about 30 cell phones, money counters, scales, $20,000 in cash, and documentation of more than $1.5 million in drug transactions, including the names of customers and suppliers. Also in the house were documents about the Lancair, connecting it to D’Amico, Costello, and Leahy. Just prior to the raid, another co-conspirator—Jeffrey Putney, who is now the sole remaining fugitive in the case—had been arrested immediately after coming out of the house, because the cops who had been tailing him saw him drop off boxes of suspected pot there.

The three met in a hotel lobby in San Francisco, where D’Amico said “that somebody had gotten arrested that knew a lot of information” and “it would be smart to leave” the country and get rid of their cellphones. Leahy “got upset and walked away,” Costello continued, and D’Amico explained “how he was going to get me a quarter million dollars” to “finance leaving the country.”

The next day, on the recommendation of a weed supplier for D’Amico and Nicka—a person Costello only knew as “Bear”—D’Amico and Costello sought advice from a legal titan: J. Tony Serra, a legendary civil-rights and criminal-defense attorney who was portrayed by James Woods in the 1989 movie “True Believer.”

“We talked at length” with Serra “about how or if we should sell the aircraft,” Costello recalled, and “about minimum maximum penalties and what we could be charged with.” They were also “asked the scope and depth of the case, how many people, how much money, how much weed,” Costello continued. Serra’s fee would be $100,000 and, Costello continued, “Dave voluntarily . . . put money on Tony’s safe on the way out the door,” about $10,000 or $20,000. While Costello said Serra “looked like he smoked weed,” he did not think he was part of the D’Amico/Nicka conspiracy.

Also that March, D’Amico first gave Costello a sense of the breadth and depth of the conspiracy: that it involved sending “150 to 250 pounds east . . . every two to three weeks,” Costello recalled, and that it involved “40 to 50” people.

At some point after the Hickory raid, Costello recalled waiting at a mall in Berkeley for D’Amico and Bear to “come back from somewhere further north,” where they had gone so that D’Amico could “pick up his balance of all the money that was owed to him.” After they returned, they transferred the money to Costello’s rented car and, after Costello dropped D’Amico at a hotel, “I drove away” with the money, Costello recalled, since “I assumed that it was the money that Dave had promised me the day before” and “I wanted to be done with the relationships with Dave.”

In the ensuing months, after the government seized the Lancair and started court proceedings to keep it as a criminally derived asset, Costello filed a claim for it, saying it was obtained lawfully. D’Amico—who had fled the U.S. for Caracas, Venezuela in early April—put the kibosh on that move, Costello recalled, by telling him “in no uncertain terms that he would come and kill me if I did not give up the aircraft, verbatim.” D’Amico “just seemed very, very upset,” Costello explained, “because I took off with money that he was supposed to give me of his own accord and I just took it.” So, he continued, “I released all interest in the Lancair aircraft on behalf of Air Sky Holdings.”

Costello also told the jury that he still feared D’Amico: “He could come to my house and hurt me and come to my house and shoot me,” Costello said. “I’ve always been concerned about that. And I’m still concerned about that to this day, in fact.”

But D’Amico may have been too busy enjoying life in Colombia to bother trying to harm Costello. An expatriate American who co-owns a hotel in Colombia where D’Amico stayed in 2010 and 2011 provides a glimpse of D’Amico’s life on the lam. City Paper confirmed the identity of the hotelier, who provided evidence to back up stories of D’Amico’s time there, but the hotelier asked not to be named in this article “because of the cloud that Dave brought” to the hotel.

D’Amico “looked like the typical gringo businessman who comes to Colombia looking for business opportunities along with some fun and excitement,” the hotelier recalls in a series of emails, but “the reality soon became evident—Dave had come to party.”

He was “certainly a very colorful character, and sometimes wild,” the hotelier observes, adding that “I learned this within a few days of his arrival, when a worker at the property led me to Dave’s suite one morning to show me that he was passed out on the floor of his room, surrounded by garbage. Once awakened, Dave told me that he occasionally enjoyed sleeping on the floor—and he said it with a serious face.” On another occasion, the hotelier recalls, “while trying to leave the hotel very late at night when the outer gate was locked,” D’Amico “tried to destroy the lock and the gate’s hinges so he could get out of the building, instead of waiting for the night clerk to return and open the door for him to leave the building.”

D’Amico “spent nearly a year here,” the hotelier continued. “I tried to get rid of him, but couldn’t. The property damage and neighborhood shame were costly,” since D’Amico was “doing whatever he wanted.” D’Amico disappeared from the hotel after a fire “started in the (locked) apartment where Dave had been living.”

The hotelier first learned about D’Amico’s indictment in Maryland after he’d disappeared. “Frankly, if I had known he was on the run at the time he was destroying my property,” the hotelier explains, “I would have turned him in to the authorities to stop the losses.”

After years as a fugitive, D’Amico now will see if he’s able to stop the loss of liberty the government wants him to suffer. He’s the most high-ranking member of the conspiracy to be brought to court so far, and those convicted for playing lower-level roles—including McIntosh, who is serving a mandatory-minimum 10-year sentence, meted out earlier this year—are currently paying the price. Despite his good times at the hotel in Colombia, D’Amico, too, based on his physical appearance recently in court, has already started to pay the price.

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.”