Flight Connections: Shawn Green is more than an accused drug trafficker on the run

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A booking photo of Shawn Michael Green, dating from the 2000s.

By Jeffrey Anderson and Van Smith

Published in City Paper, March 12, 2008

For more than two decades, East Baltimore clothing store Total Male has been associated with fashionable urban attire. Located on a bustling block of Monument Street, not far from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, the popular store has also sold tickets to concerts and hip-hop DJ events.

But a federal drug and money-laundering indictment unsealed last year against 41-year-old fugitive Shawn Michael Green, who was the president of an affiliated West Baltimore store called Total Male II, complicates Total Male’s image as simply a place for scenesters to buy clothing and tickets to parties.

The indictment also opens a window into two well-connected East Baltimore businessmen with interests in Total Male–and in politics: Milton Tillman Jr., a sizable figure in real estate, nightclubs, and bail bonds, who was part of the company that owns Total Male, which is located at 2330 E. Monument St.; and Noel Liverpool Sr., a former football star at Morgan State University who has had interests in bars, apparel, and real estate, and who helped Green open Total Male II, in Mondawmin Mall in 1996; Total Male II has since closed.

The ties between these two men and Green suggest an overlap in the city’s legitimate business economy and the drug underworld.

Green suddenly disappeared sometime around March 26, 2007, when federal agents attempted to bring him in on drug charges after arresting his mother, Yolanda Crawley, and serving search warrants on a number of their Maryland and Florida properties. As a result, the investigation was disrupted, but the unsealed indictment accuses Green of drug trafficking since 1998 and calls for forfeiture of $4 million in cash, property, and other assets. On March 20, a four-story Reservoir Hill apartment building owned by Green is scheduled for auction as a result of the forfeiture.

Though Green remains at large, three of his co-conspirators–lawyer Rachel Donegan, mortgage broker David Lincoln, and Green’s mother–pleaded guilty last year for their parts in his alleged drug and money-laundering scheme and await sentencing in the coming weeks. All three copped to wire fraud that allowed Crawley to purchase luxury homes in Maryland and Florida using false loan applications. The probe into Green’s alleged conspiracy is ongoing, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the indictment mentions “others” who are allegedly involved, in addition to Green, Crawley, Donegan, and Lincoln.

Green’s case is intriguing in part because he fled, but also because of the stature of Tillman Jr. and Liverpool Sr. Nothing to tie Tillman Jr. and Liverpool Sr. to Green’s alleged conspiracy has come to light publicly so far.

To some, these two businessmen are icons in the underserved communities of East Baltimore. Together, the two are fully in charge of large swaths of property that bear the scars of inner-city poverty. Between them, Tillman Jr., Liverpool Sr., and their family members, along with their various companies, own scores and scores of properties around the city and surrounding counties, including more than a few along East Monument Street. On a recent afternoon on Monument, for example, near where Total Male operates, there was a palpable sense of disorder along the strip of liquor stores, carry-outs, bail-bonds companies, and tax-service providers that populate the block. A Baltimore police officer was writing up an older gentleman for what appeared to be loitering while ignoring a crew of young street-bike riders as they tore off down the street popping wheelies.

The trade name Total Male was registered from 1993 until it lapsed in 1998 to All Pro Sports Enterprises Inc., which was formed in 1985 with Tillman Jr. as a board member. In 1996, Liverpool Sr. helped Green set up Total Male II, according to the attorney who filed the incorporation papers, with the written permission of Total Male’s resident agent.

Green is listed in incorporation papers as president of Total Male II, and his mother and his father, Michael Green, are also listed as officers of the company. Corporate records list the principal office as 2339 Eutaw Place–the address of Green’s forfeited apartment building scheduled to go to auction, which also served as home base for Green’s Platinum Hill recording studio.

Among the many mysteries surrounding Green and Total Male is the claim to the brand name. Anthony J. Dease of Royal Supreme Motors, an auto dealership and tag-and-title service a block away from Total Male’s East Baltimore location, claims that “I was in Total Male long before Shawn Green was there. I started the business like 25 years ago.” Dease was convicted for stealing city funds in the mid-1980s, but adds, “I work for the city now.”

Confusion about Total Male’s ownership structure is only partly cleared up by state business records. The trade name was owned by All Pro Sports, and in 1992 Dease was listed as the company’s president. In 1993, John H. Bates Sr.–who owned the Monument Street property that houses Total Male and other Tillman businesses–became the resident agent. The property is now owned by Tillman Jr.’s son Milton Tillman III, who bought it in 2005. Reached by phone in early March, Bates contends that he is “one part of Total Male, the one in Mondawmin Mall,” and when asked if he knows Shawn Green says, “Yes, I do,” but declines any further comment.

The formation of Total Male II comes with its own backstory. Attorney Leronia Josey drew up its corporate papers in the mid-1990s. She recalls dealing not with Shawn Green but with Noel Liverpool Sr. in setting up the company. Though she confirms that Bates gave Green written consent to use Total Male II as a business name, she says she never met Green.

“I remember [Liverpool] as an enterprising person who wanted to own a piece of the American Dream,” says Josey, a former member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents who currently sits on the Maryland Higher Education Commission. “I do a lot of work for churches and small businesses. There was a big push for economic development at the time.”

According to Josey, Liverpool saw a market for fashionable urban apparel. “I went to Mondawmin Mall and said, `I need to see what you’re doing with this store,'” she recalls. “There were all these nice coats and jackets.” She says she hasn’t had contact with Liverpool in more than a decade.

Green’s indictment potentially sullies the images of Tillman Jr. and Liverpool Sr. as community leaders and raises questions about whether Baltimore’s illicit economy is intertwined with its legitimate business and civic landscape.

Most emblematic of this, perhaps, is their ties to politicians. One of Liverpool’s companies, Liverpool Enterprises Inc., has donated $4,000 to each of the campaign committees of Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt and state Sen. Joan Carter Conway. Conway’s CIG Professional Tax Services is located directly across the street from Total Male, at 2331 E. Monument St., and her husband, Baltimore City Liquor License Board employee Vernon Conway, is her partner in that business.

One of Tillman Jr.’s real-estate companies, New Trend Development, has donated $1,000 to Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith’s campaign and $500 each to former Baltimore City Councilman Keiffer Mitchell and former Baltimore State’s Attorney Stuart O. Simms, who ran for Maryland attorney general in 2006. Tillman’s 4 Aces Bail Bonds has contributed $4,750 to politicians since 2001, including $1,200 to Maryland Del. Talmadge Branch and $1,000 to state Comptroller Peter Franchot.

Though Liverpool Sr. has a clean criminal record in Maryland, Tillman Jr. has twice been convicted in cases that reverberated in Baltimore political circles. The first, in 1993, was an attempted $30,000 bribe of Gia Blatterman, then the acting chair of the Baltimore City zoning board. In 1996, shortly after Tillman was released from prison in that case, a jury convicted him of tax evasion for his use of front companies to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in nightclub revenue. Most recently, Tillman Jr. and others were acquitted of illegally using property to underwrite bail bonds in criminal cases.

Attempts to reach Liverpool Sr. and Tillman Jr. for this article were unsuccessful. Jeffrey Chernow, an attorney for Liverpool Sr., did not return several calls. Tillman Jr.’s attorney Gregory Dorsey said he would relay a message to his client, who did not return the call.

Much less is known about Shawn Green. Despite being indicted as a longtime major drug trafficker, he has managed to fly below the radar. Federal court records in Florida indicate he has had previous drug arrests, but in Maryland he’s only been charged before with one crime: a 1992 disorderly-conduct charge in Baltimore City. In 2006, according to court documents, federal law enforcers seized more than $900,000 in cash from people they identified as Green’s associates. Federal law enforcers decline to say how the cash seizure helped investigators move the conspiracy case forward–or any other details or insights about the case against Green.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein insists that Green’s sudden disappearance last March is not unusual. “Usually we catch them in a week or two,” he says. “About five or 10 suspects a year remain at large.” He says he has no idea when Green fled but believes it was after federal agents arrested his mother and served search warrants at six properties on March 26, 2007. Rosenstein also does not seem flustered by Green’s flight. “There were two priorities,” he says, pointing to the intended arrest of Green and seizure of drugs, money and documents. “The main priority was to execute the search warrants.” He adds, “We have lots of evidence that we won’t disclose unless or until we go to trial.”

Which means there’s more to Shawn Green than what’s in the public record. And though Josey may have been satisfied that Total Male was simply helping its owners chase the American Dream, court records show that some of its employees and principals have engaged in illegal activity. Other than Dease and Tillman Jr., who have criminal backgrounds, those records show at least two Total Male employees were convicted on federal drug trafficking charges.

And then there’s Shawn Green, indicted for major drug-related crimes, but yet to be caught or convicted.

Femme Fatale: Accused drug trafficker Querida Lewis got a car salesman tangled up with Milton Tillman Jr.

By Jeffrey Anderson and Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Jan. 14, 2009

Visitors to Liberty Ford in Randallstown would probably have a hard time imagining Robert W. Koopman, a bespectacled, gray-haired customer service manager, mixed up with an alleged international drug trafficker. Sitting behind his desk inside the service bay, Koopman, with his quiet demeanor and warm handshake, seems more grandfather than gangster.

But through his acquaintance with a woman named Querida Lewis, who was indicted with two co-conspirators in Maryland last July for running a marijuana-trafficking operation from Mexico to Baltimore via Texas, Koopman’s life has become complicated. After buying a house in Owings Mills from Lewis in 2004, Koopman says Lewis got him to rent the house to Milton Tillman Jr., a politically connected bail-bonds impresario and two-time felon with a fearsome reputation who is under investigation by the IRS, the FBI, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Now Koopman is suing Tillman. In a case filed late last year in Baltimore County Circuit Court, Koopman alleges that Tillman, who is listed as the sole lessee, owes him $12,400 for four months of unpaid rent at 9833 Bridle Brook Drive, a two-story home in the upscale Rolling Ridge subdivision. Yet public records show that after Lewis sold the property to Koopman, she continued to use the house as a residence and business address into 2008. Forfeiture documents springing from the criminal case against Lewis state that “drug traffickers very often place assets in names other than their own to avoid detection.” Tillman allegedly stopped paying rent in August, right after Lewis was arrested.

Court records show that Lewis was involved in a drug operation that extended to Corona, Calif.; McAllen, Texas; St. Paul, Minn., and Philadelphia. The investigation has led to seizure of more than $100,000 in cash and a car belonging to others tied to the alleged scheme, some of whom have not been charged. An unindicted co-conspirator has a trucking company that leased a warehouse and back lot at 300 South Kresson St. in East Baltimore, which wire-taps show were used to move drugs.

Lewis’ alleged activities, spelled out in court documents and other public records, also involved cocaine trafficking (though she is charged only with marijuana); residences on two coasts; a trucking company; a courier service; a Reisterstown Road funeral home; her mother, who has a church and nonprofit foundation; and a FedEx driver who handled drug packages addressed to Johns Hopkins University, where his wife works as an administrator. Lewis’ trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore was scheduled to start Jan. 20, but has been delayed. She did not return calls for comment. Law-enforcement documents in the Lewis case do not indicate that Tillman is part of the drug investigation

After Lewis was arrested, Koopman posted a $50,000 bond for her in August, helping to secure her release pending trial. She has no criminal record, although in the mid-1990s her name came up in court documents when her then-husband was charged as a drug dealer, fled, and later was convicted.

“You’ll have to talk to my lawyer,” Koopman says when reporters visit him at Liberty Ford, where his colleagues seem amused by his plight. He says he is aware of Tillman’s reputation, which includes a history of ties to drug dealers, but won’t say much more. “I’ve read all the articles in City Paper” about Tillman, he says.

Tillman’s attorney Greg Dorsey, who has requested a jury trial in the lawsuit against Tillman, declines to discuss the relationship between Tillman, Lewis, and Koopman. “Those questions should be posed to Mr. Koopman,” he says. When reached by phone, Koopman’s lawyer, Norman Polovoy, hangs up.

After Koopman bought the Bridle Brook Drive house and listed it as his principal residence, state records show that Lewis’ mother, Beverlie Woodland, ran Arrival Messenger Couriers, a company Lewis started in 1994, out of the house. Though Woodland is not charged in Lewis’ case, court records state she “is aware” of her daughter’s criminal activities and “is taking an active role in collecting and hiding” Lewis’ drug money. In August, Lewis was released to Woodland’s custody pending trial. The U.S. Attorney’s Office would not comment.

Woodland and her husband, Bishop Robert F. Woodland, are incorporators of Destiny of Hope Apostolic Ministries and officers of the nonprofit Talent Exposition Foundation, which works with children. They answered the door at their Pikesville home on Jan. 7 wearing robes, and referred questions for this story to Koopman. As for the now-defunct messenger service, Beverlie Woodland says “I took it over when Querida moved to California in 2004. She said ‘Mommy, please.'”

On June 16, court records say, Lewis began orchestrating nationwide drug transactions from Corona, Calif., including instructions to have her mother handle the drug money. “They need to be very careful on who was giving us money,” Beverlie Woodland told her daughter on a wiretapped call, after bank officials had spotted two counterfeit $20 bills among the deposited cash.

Lewis and a Pennsylvania woman, Inga Bacote, then traveled in a motor home to McAllen, Texas, near the Mexican border, where Lewis owned one stash house and was looking to buy another. Once in Texas, court records state, Lewis shipped marijuana to Baltimore from a Kinko’s FedEx store, where Ruben Arce let her use his employee discount to ship the drugs. Bacote and Arce are also indicted in Lewis’ case.

Back in Baltimore, on July 8 FedEx driver Robert Wilson prepared to receive an 80-pound shipment of Lewis’ marijuana at a Johns Hopkins University address, according to court documents. Wilson’s wife, Amanda Wilson, works for Hopkins as an education assistance program manager. Investigators concluded that Wilson used his wife’s business address and described him as an “active co-conspirator” in the Lewis case.

Amanda Wilson tearfully denies any knowledge of these matters in a conference call, during which her husband admits delivering “packages” to Lewis. Though Robert Wilson is not charged in the case, investigators seized $78,490 in cash from the Wilsons’ Abingdon home.

Koopman’s life has been disrupted by Lewis as well. On a second visit to Liberty Ford, he steps outside his office to speak with reporters and says he is unclear about how he got tangled up in Lewis’ affairs.

“She came in to buy a car about eight years ago,” he says, declining to explain why he posted a $50,000 bond on her behalf when she was arrested. “I never knew [Tillman] before all of this,” Koopman says. “Ms. Lewis made all the arrangements.”

Too Rich: Alleged cocaine trafficking mastermind Richie Rich isn’t going down without a fight

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Feb. 20, 2013

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Baltimore is rife with neighborhoods ravaged as fronts in the drug war, but the area around 30th and St. Paul streets, in Charles Village, isn’t one of them. This is a “college town” neighborhood near the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University, frequented by many who study or work at Hopkins, not by drug dealers.

Yet, on Oct. 8, 2010, the area around 30th and St. Paul streets suddenly became ground zero in the intelligence-gathering efforts of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to take down one of Baltimore’s major cocaine suppliers.

“We were pretty excited,” DEA special agent Mark Lester says, referring to the moment he and his colleague, special agent Todd Edwards, realized that Richard Anthony Wilford, who goes by the nickname “Richie Rich,” had walked into their investigation of another drug dealer, Lawrence Lee Hayes Jr., who they’d been pursuing for two months. Literally walked, because the agents watched as Wilford and Hayes spent an hour walking up and down the block around 30th and St. Paul, Lester says while testifying during a Jan. 25 hearing in the resulting case.

“Edwards knew that Mr. Wilford had been arrested before,” Lester explains, and that it was “widely known that he was suspected of being a large-scale drug dealer.”

As the investigation progressed, sussing out the details of the cross-country scheme—the coke would come from California and cash would be sent back—it uncovered the telltale elements of a classic shadow-economy scheme: legitimate-looking businesses, cars, and other assets put in the names of other parties, including ties to a Baltimore City court commissioner and a man working at City Hall.

Hayes allegedly stood at the top of a supply chain that, when it was brought down in the spring of 2011, put in the government’s hands a massive haul of cocaine—nearly 150 kilograms, 136 kilos of it in a tractor-trailer driven by Robert Nyakana, a Ugandan who made the DEA’s “Most Wanted” list while a fugitive, until he was later arrested—and about $3.5 million in cash (including $1.6 million taken from a house in Randallstown), $600,000 in jewelry, 23 vehicles, six pieces of real estate in Georgia, and some expensive electronics. Wilford, Hayes, and four others were indicted in federal court, and five other co-conspirators faced indictments in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Wilford went on the run, hiding in Los Angeles until August 2011, when he was spotted by agents, who raided his home there and recovered $68,000 in cash. Then he laid low in Baltimore, at a house near Pimlico Race Course, where, when he was finally arrested on Sept. 16, 2011, agents found $190,000 in cash. So even as a fleet-footed fugitive, running from the U.S. marshals months after the coke scheme had been dismantled, Wilford still had access to substantial means.

Today, in the federal case, all but Wilford have pleaded guilty. He’s retained an expensive, well-regarded attorney, William Purpura—the same one Wilford has used in his criminal cases for years—to battle the government with a vengeance. Wilford says not only that serious errors were contained in affidavits in the case, but that Lester, Edwards, and their fellow law enforcers conducted illegal electronic surveillance in pursuing him and his co-conspirators by monitoring cellphone “pings”—the communication signals that bounce between phones and cell towers—and global positioning systems (GPS) devices attached to vehicles.

But if not for this warrantless electronic surveillance—which had been common practice until January 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered warrants for “slap-on” GPS devices, and August 2010, when the D.C. Circuit’s appellate court handed down a similar ruling—Wilford contends that Lester and Edwards would not have known to be in Charles Village that October day to watch him meeting with Hayes. If Wilford’s arguments prevail, the government’s case against him would suffer, or even be dismissed, as key evidence could no longer be presented to a trial jury.

Purpura and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Sippel offered testimony and argued their respective takes on these questions for much of the day on Jan. 25, before U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander, who has scheduled more arguments for March 8. During the hearing, Purpura points out that “we guessed, and guessed correctly” that slap-on GPS devices were used in the investigation—a detail that the government had not volunteered and then “gave it up in drips and drabs.” Whichever way Hollander rules—and she indicated she was leaning in the government’s favor, despite a law enforcer’s affidavit in the case that was “replete with mistakes,” she said—the resulting decision will likely go to Richmond to be reviewed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Wilford, at a few inches shy of 6 feet and with neither much fat nor muscle on his frame, is not an imposing man. In the courtroom for the Jan. 25 arguments, he appears relaxed as he waves and mouths conversations with friends and family there to support him. Despite the prison jumpsuit, he looks very much a mild-mannered, legitimate businessman, with a sharp look in his eye. But the man’s not going down without a fight, and if he wins, not only will he likely go free, but drug cops are going to have to push a lot more paper getting warrants before they go pinging suspects’ cellphones—just like they have to do now, thanks to the Supreme Court, before slapping GPS units on suspects’ cars.

To say it’s “widely known” that Wilford is “suspected of being a large-scale drug trafficker,” as Lester put it, is a bit of an understatement. Wilford’s nickname has figured in some of the more storied chapters in the modern annals of Baltimore drug dealing.

Wilford’s first federal drug case, brought in 1992 when he was 19, was a conspiracy that included two men who were then twice Wilford’s age—legendary Baltimore gangsters Walter Louis Ingram and Walter Lee Powell, who are now in their 60s and, like Wilford, in trouble again with the feds (“Old and in the Game,” Mobtown Beat, Dec. 19, 2012). Wilford’s cocaine conviction in that case got him five years in federal prison, and after his release, in 2001 he caught another federal stint—two years for possession with intent to distribute heroin.

Then, while still on supervised release for his 2001 conviction, Wilford in 2008 emerged in the vortex of law-enforcement intrigue surrounding a corrupt Baltimore cop named Mark Lunsford (“Costly Charges,” Mobtown Beat, Nov. 11, 2009); Querida Lewis, a cross-country drug dealer (“Femme Fatale,” Mobtown Beat, Jan. 14, 2009) with ties to three-time Baltimore felon Milton Tillman Jr. (“Citizen of the Year,” Mobtown Beat, Aug. 27, 2008), a politically connected bailbondsman, longshoreman, and real-estate developer; and a bevy of other Baltimore drug dealers, among them Gilbert Watkins, Donta Dotson, and Dante Chavez.

Wilford’s ties to all of this came into focus in court documents, many of them sworn out by Lunsford, a former DEA task-force officer who pleaded guilty to theft and lying and who was released from federal prison in March 2012. The documents describe Wilford and his partner, Mark Anthony Hawkins, as large-scale marijuana and cocaine suppliers.

Ultimately, neither Wilford nor Hawkins got in much trouble. Wilford pleaded guilty in Baltimore County court and received probation before judgment, while the feds seized $39,045 of his money, returning $5,000 of it pursuant to a settlement agreement. During the motions battle in the case, which was built based on wiretaps, Purpura argued that Lunsford’s involvement in the probe undermined its integrity and that agents had failed to constrain their eavesdropping to relevant conversations by recording exchanges about Wilford being a “daddy to be” and “shooting over to Shorty’s [for a] cookout.” Hawkins, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in federal court and was sentenced to time served.

The others weren’t so fortunate: Lewis, Dotson, Watkins, and Chavez all remain in federal prison for their convictions.

Thus, when October 2010 rolled around and Lester and Edwards discovered Wilford walking around Charles Village with Hayes, the two DEA agents were understandably “excited”—a target of longstanding significance was suddenly in their sights. Wilford’s criminal past and flashy present—an informant told investigators he drove a $150,000 Mercedes and, indeed, several months earlier he’d been clocked at 111 mph in a Mercedes on the Washington Beltway—made him worthy prey if he was, in fact, still in the drug game.

The details of the Wilford investigation, revealed in a myriad of court documents, bring into focus the shadowy elements of the criminal enterprise, including not only the legitimate-looking business endeavors of the conspirators, but their ties to local government as well. The businesses, including Blow It Off Power Washing, R.A.W. Enterprises, B’Mores Dumping, M&M Construction, and Eight K Contracting, were varied, and some of the investigation’s targets had legitimate jobs, including one who worked for a private special-education school, the Chimes School, and another who was on the Baltimore City Hall payroll.

The picture, in all its high-resolution glory, emerged not from wiretaps—none were obtained in the case—but largely thanks to high-tech surveillance aids that provided Lester, Edwards, and their law-enforcement colleagues with nearly real-time location data about the whereabouts of their targets’ vehicles and cellphones. If someone was on the move, law enforcers could watch on computer screens and react quickly, hitting the streets to gain valuable insights leading to hard intelligence about their targets’ habits, associates, and affiliations, wherever they may lead.

During the Jan. 25 hearing, Lester explained that four slap-on GPS trackers were affixed to a total of 12 different vehicles during the investigation, which also obtained “pinging orders” from judges for at least 23 phones, allowing the agents to quickly receive GPS coordinates for those phones via emails from their service providers. If a tracked vehicle or phone moved, the agents would quickly know, and could decide whether to go out and do some good old-fashioned eyeball surveillance.

Wilford’s attorney, Purpura, had a last-minute witness to put on at the Jan. 25 hearing: Joshua Brown of GLS Litigation Services, who demonstrated with mapping software how revealing the government’s GPS-derived data can be about a person’s movements and patterns in life. City Paper visited GLS’ offices at Clipper Mill a few days later, so Brown and his partner, Gabriel Saunders, could give a guided tour of what is shown by the 30,000-or-so latitude/longitude points the government has on Wilford’s phones and vehicles over a nearly 11-month period starting in late October 2010.

“It helps you find important places,” says Brown, pointing out Wilford’s mother-in-law’s home in Los Angeles, his shopping routines when in Los Angeles, his regular routes to and from his luxury home near Elkton in Cecil County, and a trip Wilford took to the Catskills at one point. “Places of interest might also emerge when you have monitored phones intersecting with cars that were monitored—you can use both to determine whether people are together, or whether people are in a car together.”

“We take the data the government has,” says Saunders, “and make it understandable to people.” He ponders the implications as technology advances: “It won’t be long before there’s software that analyzes this, and starts to predict where you will be,” and before facial recognition capabilities can be applied to images caught on public closed-circuit television camera—so that so-called “aids to surveillance” become simply surveillance, done remotely.

While scanning the mapped data on a computer monitor, it is clear that Wilford—or at least his car—went to Baltimore’s jail complex for about two hours on Nov. 19, 2010, and that in late January and early February 2011, both his car and his phone were at the industrial waterfront in Canton, possibly to fill dump trucks with sand from the stockpiles there. On March 9, 2011, multiple cars and phones were at Perring Plaza at the same time—likely a meeting of the conspirators. At various times, the monitoring placed phones and cars in Little Italy, near Mo’s Crab and Pasta Factory and the nightclub Milan, and investigators learned that Wilford and his associates hung out at a barbershop on the 3700 block of Wabash Avenue. Throughout the period of phone- and car-tracking, the conspirators maintained a nearly constant presence in the Union Square neighborhood, in West Baltimore, in a block near Lombard and Calhoun streets that’s known for open-air drug dealing.

What Brown and Saunders show is a remarkably detailed, nuanced portrait of Wilford’s movements not only in Baltimore but Los Angeles and elsewhere. As long as he and his co-conspirators’ cars and phones were being tracked, their lives—or at least their locations, which led to a host of possibilities for surveillance and follow-up investigation—were open books.

One of the places to which electronic surveillance led the agents was 1020 Park Ave., the Symphony Center Apartment Homes, near the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. This, they learned, was where Hayes laid his head, in unit number 907. They’d seen Hayes leave the apartment with a backpack, meet Wilford over near 30th and St. Paul, and exchange the backpack for a large cardboard box that Wilford would bring, and then Hayes would take the box to an apartment at Belvedere Towers, at Northern Parkway and Falls Road. When agents raided Hayes’ Symphony Center apartment in May 2011, they found and seized $318,006 in cash and seven expensive watches. And even before they raided the Belvedere Towers apartment, they did a trash dump there, after watching one of the co-conspirators throw some garbage in a dumpster, and found evidence that cocaine was being processed there after being shipped in hollowed-out computer towers.

But before all that, in late Sept. 2010, the agents looked into who was leasing the Symphony Center unit used by Hayes. Turned out, it was a man named Damon Crump, a Baltimore City district court commissioner at the Pataspco Avenue courthouse in Brooklyn, whose day-to-day duties involve setting defendants’ bails and reviewing sworn statements of charges to make sure they pass muster for probable cause.

Edwards, in an affidavit, explained that Crump, along with one of Hayes’ and Wilford’s co-conspirators, Alvin Purcell Wells, leased the apartment on Hayes’ behalf. Crump’s name also was on the BGE account for the apartment. “In addition,” Edwards wrote, Symphony Center’s management “identified Hayes as the individual they knew to be Damon Crump,” while Wells paid the rent—and had run up a couple thousand dollars in credit.

Crump, who was not charged with any crime for the role Edwards ascribes to him in the investigation, said in a Feb. 1 phone interview that “I’m a victim” for having helped Hayes, who he says he’s known since “I was 8 years old.” He explains that Hayes came to him in 2006 and said he’d been “put out from his home and needed a place to stay, so I got the apartment for him” by signing the lease.

The first year, Crump continues, Hayes was “doing fine, selling cars and doing carpentry and landscaping work,” and so “I see that everything is going well, so I’m going to back off.” Then Hayes talked “Wells into putting his name on the lease too,” and “so I am not down there [at the apartment] from the middle of 2007 on,” since the rent’s being paid and Wells—who Crump says he’s known since middle school, and whom he describes as “a legitimate businessman who had a group home”—is sharing responsibility for the lease. Then, Hayes gets arrested in the Wilford investigation and “I was just dumbfounded,” says Crump, adding that “I had no involvement—if I did, I would have been arrested—and if I’d known, I would’ve broken the lease.” As for Wells, Crump says, “he could have been a victim too”—and, indeed, prosecutors later declined to pursue the charges against Wells.

Much less detail is available about a target in the investigation who court documents say was on that payroll of Baltimore City mayor’s office in 2009 and early 2010, during the waning days of Sheila Dixon’s tenure there. His name appears in the Baltimore City Circuit Court case file against one of Wilford’s co-conspirators, Michael Smooth, who owns a dump-truck company, B’Mores Dumping, located at a Wilford-owned industrial property near Cherry Hill. The target is described in a “report of investigation” as one of several unindicted targets in the case, without any further details—except that he also earned income from a clothing store he owned in West Baltimore’s Union Square neighborhood, a few blocks from the near-constant cluster of locational data points turned up by the investigation’s GPS tracking efforts.

Attempts to contact the target were unsuccessful, as were efforts to learn his duties at the mayor’s office, but a visit to the clothing store’s location reveals it is no longer in operation, and its listed phone number is no longer active. As he was not charged and could not be located, City Paper is not publishing his name.

That the Wilford investigation touched on a court commissioner and a man on City Hall’s payroll is perhaps not surprising in an era of Baltimore crime-consciousness informed by intricacies of The Wire, with its thought-provoking fictional portrayals of the drug game’s far-reaching consequences. But this is real life—at least insofar as the agent’s sworn facts reflect reality—and the Wilford case stacks up as a big one by Baltimore standards.

In 2008, a 40-kilo cocaine seizure was touted by the Baltimore police as the biggest in the department’s history (“Man Gets Federal Charges for Historic 40-Kilo Coke Bust Next to Kevin Liles Drive,” Mobtown Beat, Feb. 23, 2009), though two prior ones at the Port of Baltimore were bigger, but involved other law-enforcement agencies (“OK, But It’s Probably Like the Third-Biggest Drug Bust Ever. At Least,” The News Hole, March 2, 2009). One of those larger ones, in 2004, involved a little over 130 kilograms—a few kilos less than in the Wilford case.

At the very same time as the Wilford investigation, another probe handled by the DEA in California, involving Hollywood-based figures with Baltimore ties, turned up evidence that nearly 400 kilograms of cocaine were shipped to Baltimore over a six-week period, with more than $4 million in cash going back to California (“Bringing It Back Home,” Mobtown Beat, Feb. 2, 2011). Aside from the large amounts of California coke being exchanged for Baltimore cash, the case has another similarity to Wilford’s—some of the coke in both cases was shipped in hollowed-out desktop computer towers.

In a case involving Mexican cartel coke coming to Baltimore, trial testimony from a cartel operative provided some context for these amounts (“Corner Cartel,” Feature, Feb. 23, 2011). The operative, Alex Noel Mendoza-Cano, told jurors that he had been one of the Gulf cartel’s Houston-based distributors, and his group handled about 300 tons of coke a month coming over the border from Mexico—that’s more than 272,000 kilograms per month. On the Baltimore end, Mendoza-Cano said he delivered 40 to 60 kilos per month for six months to one of the case’s co-conspirators.

The Wilford investigation, then, turned up big amounts by Baltimore standards—but in the overall scheme of things, it’s a drop in the bucket. Still, it’s not a case prosecutors care to lose over the question of whether or not the agents failed to get needed warrants for their highly effective electronic-surveillance tactics—which is precisely what Wilford is trying to make happen. Whether or not Wilford wins, he can at least say he tried.

Union Busted: Ex-cons, and some current ones, find a home in troubled Local 333 of the International Longshoremen’s Association

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Nov. 24, 2010

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Ask Michael Thames if he’s a member of the Local 333 of the International Longshoremen’s Association, and the 42-year-old quickly pulls his Port of Baltimore photo-identification card out of his pants pocket. He’s been working for nine years on crews that load and unload ships calling on Baltimore, he says, and his brother and two uncles do too, as did his father until retiring recently. All, he says, are members of Local 333.

Thames is holding his Baltimore Orioles cap and sunglasses in his hand, sporting a black faux-leather jacket with lots of zippered pockets. A grill of gold caps his front teeth, flashing as he speaks. He has close-cropped hair and a slight mustache.

Yes, Thames says, he’s aware there’s a Local 333 election coming up on Dec. 3, and that Riker “Rocky” McKenzie is running for Local 333’s president.

McKenzie has already been president of the union once, having won the position in January 2009. But he was replaced in August by an acting president after the ILA’s national leaders in New York determined that a heroin-dealing conviction from the 1970s rendered him ineligible for the position, since felons are barred from serving as union officers. The day after the decision, McKenzie appealed. While he did not contest the conviction during a June hearing on the matter, in his appeal he contended he received probation before judgment in the heroin case rather than a guilty finding. Pending the outcome of his appeal, he’s allowed to be nominated as the local’s president. He has only one opponent: longtime Local 333 member John Blom.

And yes, Thames says, he knows McKenzie’s bid for president included a Nov. 15 fundraiser at the Eldorado, a strip club in East Baltimore co-owned by Kenneth Antonio “Kenny Bird” Jackson, an iconic Baltimore underworld figure—and a fellow member of Local 333.

Jackson hasn’t been part of an active prosecution since a generation ago (“The High Life,” Mobtown Beat, Jan. 3, 1996), but his criminal history includes several notable convictions—manslaughter, narcotics, and gun possession—and he beat two murder raps, one in 1974 and the other in 1991. In between, he was twice pulled over in his car on the New Jersey Turnpike with large sums of cash during the late 1980s. The first time it was $91,000; the next it was nearly $700,000.

Over time, Jackson’s life quieted on the law-enforcement front. In a 2009 interview about a film he produced, The Baltimore Chronicles: Legends of the Unwired (“Last Word,” Feature, Apr. 29, 2009), Jackson told City Paper he’d undergone “a transition from one lifestyle to another,” shelving his gangster ways and retreating peacefully to the simple life of running a family-owned strip club.

But Jackson is still a lightning rod for criminal and political intrigue. In the mid-2000s, a federal prosecution of a politically connected violent drug gang, the Rice Organization (“Wired,” Mobtown Beat, March 2, 2005), targeted a man who helped run the criminal enterprise while also operating a restaurant in a Jackson-owned building on Howard Street’s Antique Row. And Jackson’s mother—who co-owns the Eldorado with him—still co-owns a downtown Baltimore condominium (The News Hole, Feb. 22) with Jackson’s former criminal-defense attorney, Robert Simels of New York (“Team Player,” Mobtown Beat, Sept. 24, 2008), who’s now serving a 14-year prison sentence for witness intimidation.

It’s hard to imagine a man of Jackson’s stature doing wage-paying labor as a stevedore. And, in fact, he may not have, according to multiple Local 333 members who spoke on the condition that their names not be used, for fear of retribution. Instead, they say it’s common knowledge on the docks that another man, Anthony James Carroll, worked in Jackson’s place—a not uncommon practice known as “covering” (“Clocked,” Mobtown Beat, Oct. 6). To shore up this contention, they share details about a woman who almost married Carroll, thinking he was Jackson, until the ruse came tumbling down after Carroll’s arrest when driving a stolen car in 2007.

“I don’t know,” Thames says when asked about Carroll standing in as Jackson at the port. “I just know [Carroll] worked down there [as a stevedore] before.”

Jackson did not respond to a detailed e-mail and could not be reached by phone. Attempts to reach Carroll, who court records indicate is now in South Carolina, were unsuccessful. The phone number he gave officials when he signed probation papers in October for a recent theft conviction is no longer active.

Thames is also aware that Local 333 member Milton Tillman Jr.—a politically influential bail-bondsman and real estate investor with two prior federal convictions for attempted bribery and tax evasion—was indicted by a federal grand jury early this year. Some of the charges against Tillman involve covering, alleging he was paid port wages for shifts he did not work. Tillman’s reputation as a drug-world figure was exploited in a federal courtroom in 2002, when since-deceased Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Luna, while prosecuting a case involving the 2000 shooting of Tillman’s son, called him “one of the most notorious drug dealers in Baltimore City history” (“Grave Accusations,” Mobtown Beat, April 23, 2008).

Tillman and Jackson are arguably two of the most enduring names in the modern annals of Baltimore crime. And both are members of Local 333.

In addition to McKenzie, Jackson, and Tillman, Thames says he knows about the federal fraud convictions in September of three port timekeepers for covering. The case against the timekeepers, who are members of Local 953 and track dockworkers’ hours on behalf of employers, grew out of the federal investigation into Tillman’s conduct on the waterfront (“Collateral Catch,” Mobtown Beat, March 31).

Asked about the investigations and the upcoming elections, Thames says, “I don’t really have no recommendations. As far as Rocky and all them, all I know is what you know.”

The conversation with Thames occurred on Nov. 12 in a hallway outside a courtroom at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Thames, whose street name is “Gotti,” had just pleaded not guilty to an indictment accusing him of being a cocaine dealer. According to the charging papers, on Sept. 1 law enforcers descended on Thames’ Essex residence armed with a search warrant. The search turned up about five ounces of cocaine, about $5,000, two digital scales, and two blocks of mannite, often used as a cutting agent for illegal drugs.

Thames’ circumstances—along with convicted criminals Tillman and Jackson being Local 333 members and union president McKenzie’s hazy criminal charge—beg questions. Does Local 333 draw people with criminal pasts or presents? And if so, why? Thames answers as best he can, saying, “I don’t know.” Attempts at follow-up interviews were unsuccessful.

 

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice in New York filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against the national ILA. The government calls its target “the Waterfront Enterprise,” and says it is comprised of ILA leaders and members and associates of the Genovese and Gambino organized-crime families. Among the dozens of named defendants in the case are two Baltimoreans: Richard Hughes, the ILA’s president, who is the longtime business agent for Local 953 in Baltimore; and Horace Alston, a Local 333 member who serves as an ILA vice president in New York.

The purpose of the litigation, the federal attorneys wrote in a 2008 motion, is “to eradicate the pervasive and long-enduring Waterfront racketeering that has deprived” the ILA’s “honest membership,” the “innocent beneficiaries” of its pension and welfare funds, and businesses that use ILA labor “of rights and property for decades.”

Last week, the ILA’s problems in New York and New Jersey were put under a spotlight by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, the watchdog agency that polices port labor practices there. According to news reports, testimony revealed that an ILA shop steward makes $400,000 a year logging 168 hours of work each week, an ILA timekeeper earned about $462,000 in 2009 by getting paid for 25-hour workdays, and a cargo checker with mob ties had a no-show job. The hearings seek to reveal how irrational labor practices drive up port costs and create conditions ripe for organized crime to have a say over how billions of dollars worth of cargo is moved through New York Harbor each year.

The words “Baltimore,” “Maryland,” or “Local 333” do not appear in the federal case, which focuses on conduct alleged—or in many cases proven—to have occurred in New York, New Jersey, and Florida. Nonetheless, the ongoing, slow-moving litigation casts a pall over the ILA as a whole, lending credence to the possibility that something about its institutional culture attracts, or perhaps even welcomes, criminal elements.

People like to say that Baltimore doesn’t have organized crime; instead, it has disorganized crime. There aren’t any Gambinos or Genoveses to infiltrate the ILA here in Mobtown, calling the shots about how cargo gets moved. Instead, there are run-of-the-mill, disorganized criminals. An analysis of the Local 333 membership roster bears this out.

Local 333 isn’t packed with people who have bribery, extortion, racketeering, kickback, and public corruption backgrounds. Instead, the records of many Local 333 members reflect the core criminality of Baltimore: drugs, violence, and property crime. At least a fifth of its membership consists of serious felons.

City Paper used online court records to determine that out of the 918 distinct port identification numbers issued to ILA members through Local 333, according to its roster in mid-October, 272 of them are held by presumably honest workers who have never been charged with a crime in Maryland in their adult lives. Thus, at least 29 percent of the membership is untainted by any criminal accusations at all, based on available information.

The number of completely upstanding members is likely greater, because, in the case of another 267 members, City Paperwas unable to ascertain whether or not they’ve ever had criminal charges filed against them in Maryland: Either their names were too common to match up with available information in the court records, or someone with charges or convictions on the record shared their name, but available information was insufficient to reach any definite conclusions. Of these 267, it is unknown if they’ve ever been charged with a crime, charged but not convicted, or found guilty. This group comprises another 29 percent of Local 333’s membership.

That leaves at least 379 members, or 41 percent of the membership, who are confirmed to have been accused of criminal wrongdoing in Free State courts at some point in their adult lives—though this number, too, is likely to be higher, given the 30 percent of members with undetermined backgrounds.

Of these 379 members, 219—almost a quarter of the union membership—have been convicted. By removing from the list of convicts those who were ruled guilty only of relatively minor charges—things like traffic offenses, cable-television fraud, open container, disorderly conduct, housing violations, leaving the scene of an accident, etc.—the list is whittled down to 194 members with serious criminal backgrounds, more than one-fifth of Local 333’s roster.

So far this year, 21 members of Local 333 have been convicted of serious crimes. All but one of them have prior convictions. Their 2010 convictions include: armed robbery, possession with intent to distribute drugs, drug dealing, attempted drug dealing, drug possession (five counts), firearms (three counts), sex offense, escape, theft (two counts), and assault (three counts).

One member, who was convicted this year of escape and drug possession, already had 10 convictions dating back to the mid-’90s for such crimes as drug dealing, battery, firearms, robbery, and car theft. Another, who was convicted this year of theft, also has an open drug-possession charge and has been convicted previously of drug-dealing crimes in 2004, 1997, and 1996. On average, before getting convicted this year, this group’s number of prior guilty findings is three, and three of this year’s convicts were first found guilty of a serious crime in 1993.

In 2009, 19 members were convicted of serious crimes. Six of them were subsequently convicted of other crimes in 2010, or currently face open charges. Their 2009 convictions include: assault (three counts, including one for assaulting a correctional officer), theft (four counts), possession with intent to distribute drugs (two counts), drug dealing, drug possession (five counts), driving while intoxicated (two counts), and escape (two counts). All but two of them have prior convictions on their records and, on average, this group, like 2010’s, had three prior convictions. The member convicted of assaulting a prison guard has drug-dealing and firearms convictions going back to 1995, while another, convicted of three counts of theft in 2009, has drug dealing and assault convictions going back to 1996, and faces new drug-possession charges this year.

Thus, the group of Local 333 members convicted recently of serious crimes consists almost entirely of repeat offenders, and several have records that make them appear to be career criminals. Being a Local 333 member, with access to good wages working as a stevedore, does not seem to have solved the recidivism problem for them.

It is possible that many of those with serious convictions in their past have put their criminal behavior behind them, with the aid of their well-paying jobs at the port. Of the 98 members of Local 333 who had serious criminal convictions in 1995 or before, 40 have never been convicted of a crime again (though one of them was recently arrested for drug possession, which triggered an outstanding drug-dealing warrant from 22 years ago). That’s a powerful statement about the rehabilitative effects of a good job. Among the remaining old-school felons, the picture is rather dismal.

These 58 aging criminals, on average, have been convicted three additional times since 1995. Eleven of them have five or more new convictions since then, including for: theft (13 counts), drug possession (21 counts), possession with intent to distribute drugs (six counts), drug dealing (three counts), assault (10 counts), robbery (two counts), firearms (two counts), deadly weapon with intent to injure, conspiracy (two counts), violating protective orders (four counts), and 16 probation violations. The other 47 members, who have one to four convictions since 1995, display a similar laundry list of bad or dangerous conduct: assault (11 counts), firearms (three counts), drug dealing (seven counts), possession with intent to distribute drugs (14 counts), drug possession (20 counts), and theft (nine counts)

In addition to the 58 members who appear to be career criminals and the 38 members convicted of crimes since 2009, nearly all with prior convictions, there are 23 members of the local who currently face open charges and are awaiting trial. They are accused of such crimes as arson threat, false imprisonment, attempted kidnapping, assault (seven counts), sex offense, felon in possession of a firearm, possession with intent to distribute drugs (two counts), drug possession (nine counts), selling counterfeit goods, burglary (three counts), driving while intoxicated (two counts), and violating a protective order.

While Local 333 has more than its fair share of felons, new, old, or soon-to-be-again, it also boasts a high number of productive members of society who either have never demonstrated a criminal disposition, or shed their criminal lifestyles long ago. Whether or not these good people make up the union’s majority is hard to say, but they might. And the upcoming elections offer them the chance to control the local’s destiny.

When visited at his fundraiser at Kenneth Jackson’s Eldorado strip club on Nov. 15, Riker “Rocky” McKenzie declined to discuss his candidacy for president—or anything at all, for that matter. He refused to answer questions and said he was not interested in receiving a follow-up call to try to change his mind about being interviewed.

McKenzie’s opponent, John Blom, wasn’t eager to talk either when reached by phone a few days later. He was unhappy because a rumor had been making the rounds that he’d sicced City Paper on McKenzie, which was not the case. But Blom agreed to answer questions, though he was far from pleased with the prospect that his union would be portrayed as a den of thieves, drug dealers, and other ne’er-do-wells.

The union’s problems, Blom says, are not due to criminal elements in its midst, but instead to “disarray” and “infighting” that are detracting from its ability to defend workers from employers’ never-ending quests for labor-contract concessions.

“I was originally planning on retiring this year,” says Blom, who has been a member of Local 333 since 1977, “but I don’t want to leave with it in such a mess as it is in right now.” He says “there’s an incredible amount of infighting involving Mr. McKenzie,” and it’s gotten so bad that “people won’t work together. It’s pretty brutal, to the point of being, as far as I’m concerned, pretty dysfunctional.” He explains that “the infighting is making us ineffective when the companies are trying to wrest concessions from the workers,” but is circumspect when it comes to the details of what’s prompting dissension in the ranks.

“It’s all kinds of stuff,” he says, “kind of in-the-family stuff, so I don’t want to go into it. But it needs to stop in order for us to be an effective organization. I’m going to take a crack at making things better. I believe I can be a unifying force. I think I’m pretty well perceived as being a fair person.”

As for the contention, based on the roster analysis, that the local appears to have been infiltrated by active criminals, Blom believes the data City Paper turned up “pretty much matches up with the population of Baltimore City. Statistically, I don’t think that’s unusual,” he says of the high proportion of ex-cons, recent convicts, and recently accused people among Local 333’s membership. “We incarcerate people at a far greater rate than any other country in the world,” he points out.

Blom, who is one of the local’s many members without a trace of criminal blemish in his background, concedes that the local may have attracted some who want to be members just so “they can tell a judge, ‘Yeah, I work there, and I’ve worked there for five years,’ even though maybe they haven’t worked a shift in five years.”

Kenneth Jackson and Milton Tillman Jr., who both have legitimate business incomes, presumably don’t have to worry about explaining where their money comes from. Asked what advantage a union stevedoring job—especially one that they may not work—provides Jackson and Tillman, Blom says, “I don’t have a clue. That’s beyond my payscale.”

Blom adds, “I don’t even know who the Jackson guy is. ” Of Tillman, he says, “I recognized by sight the guy who said he was Tillman” while working at the docks, “and all of the sudden, he disappeared.”

Meanwhile, Blom is banking on winning the Dec. 3 election for Local 333 president so he can work to make the union’s problems disappear too.

Collateral Catch: Investigation into indicted bailbondsman snared other members of troubled waterfront union

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Mar. 31, 2010

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), the nation’s largest union of maritime workers with some 43,500 members stationed along U.S. and Canadian coasts, has deep roots in Baltimore. Baltimore native Richard Hughes Jr. has been its president since 2007, and he is also the business agent for ILA Local 953, based in Locust Point. Del. Brian McHale (D-46th District), who represents Baltimore’s waterfront in the state House of Delegates, is on Local 953’s roster as a steamship clerk. One of the ILA’s vice presidents, Horace Alston, heads the union’s Baltimore District Council. He and former ILA general vice president John Shade are trustees of Baltimore’s ILA Local 333.

But amid the well-connected ILA members in Baltimore, one longshoreman in particular raised the union’s profile recently: Milton Tillman Jr.

A politically connected ex-con and real-estate investor who is the dominant force in Baltimore’s bailbonds industry, Tillman Jr. is also a member of ILA Local 333. On March 17, a federal indictment charging Tillman Jr. and his son, Milton “Moe” Tillman III, with tax fraud, wire fraud, and unlawful bailbonds practices, was unsealed (“Milton Tillman and Son Indicted in Bailbonds Conspiracy,” The News Hole, March 17). It includes charges that Tillman Jr. was paid for unloading ships at Baltimore’s docks on shifts when he was in Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and Las Vegas, among other places.

The Tillman investigation, court records show, also helped prosecutors nab three other ILA members in Baltimore–William Zichos Jr., Dale Kowalewski, and Joseph Bell–who were indicted on wire-fraud conspiracy charges last November. The three men are union timekeepers who record the hours clocked by dockworkers for payroll purposes. They are members of ILA Local 953, which represents clerical workers in Baltimore’s maritime industry. The case against them alleges they also got paid for no-show work by the stevedoring company Ports America, including at times when they were in France, Costa Rica, Iceland, Las Vegas, and Florida.

The trial in the timekeepers’ case, which had been scheduled to begin in April, was recently postponed until September. The Tillmans’ trial is expected to take four to five weeks, and is currently scheduled to start on May 24, though at a March 26 arraignment hearing in the case, Tillman III’s attorney, Steven Allen, questioned whether that’s a “realistic date.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland declines to confirm a connection between the Tillman investigation and the timekeepers’ indictment. “We can’t go beyond what’s in the public record,” spokeswoman Marcia Murphy says in an e-mail. “And there is nothing in the public record connecting those cases.”

But records in both cases show a nexus: an Aug. 18, 2008, raid on Building 1200A at Dundalk Marine Terminal.

Building 1200A, known as the “timekeepers shack,” was one of seven locations raided as part of a multi-agency probe into the Tillmans (“Tillman Properties Raided by Feds,” The News Hole, Aug. 20, 2008). The other locations–residences, a vehicle, and business offices associated with the Tillmans–were searched because agents expected to turn up proof of tax fraud and unlawful bailbonds practices. The timekeepers shack was targeted, according to the 65-page search warrant affidavit, because investigators expected to find evidence of Tillman Jr.’s suspected “‘no-show’ or ‘ghost worker’ scam.” Investigators on Tillman Jr.’s trail seized payroll documents and computer records from Building 1200A, including from the desks of Zichos, Kowalewski, and Bell.

Tillman Jr. was convicted of a similar scam in the 1990s, when he used a straw employee to work hours in his stead, so he could get paid without actually working.

After the raid, court records show, Zichos was called to testify before a federal grand jury. He met with prosecutors Martin Clarke and Stephen Schenning leading up to that grand-jury testimony, and his answers to their questions raised suspicions.

According to a Feb. 17, 2010, government filing in the timekeepers’ case, the prosecutors asked Zichos if he had ever received “no-show” pay. The filing says that initially, Zichos said “he had received pay for a no-show shift only once in his career . . . and that was when he attended his father’s funeral. In giving his answer, he appeared to be very nervous and overly emotional.”

Then Zichos owned up to “other times when people covered for him, such as when he had a doctor’s appointment or important personal business.”

“There were other times when he was paid for work he did not do, including when he went on vacation,” the filing states. “He was reluctant to give details or say who covered for him and he appeared nervous and upset while giving his answers.” The prosecution’s filing says that Zichos admitted to more occasions when he received no-show pay, though he is “still not clear on some of the details, especially who had covered for him.

“The government later learned that Zichos’ grand-jury testimony was inconsistent with evidence . . . from other sources regarding the scope of his involvement in a no-show scheme involving the timekeepers,” the filing says, “especially the extent to which he covered for others so they could receive no-show wages.”

The ILA’s problems in Baltimore got worse in January when Local 333’s members sued its leadership. Among those leaders are ILA vice president Alston and former general vice president Shade, who gained control of Local 333 in 2005 when the national union placed it in trusteeship due to alleged improprieties. The suit, filed in federal court, alleges that since Local 333 entered trusteeship, unlawful conduct has pervaded its leadership. It cites missing money, unapproved salary increases, shifting Local 333’s jurisdiction over port jobs to another newly formed local, and negotiating with employers behind the membership’s back. The lawsuit also claims that Local 333 is close to bankruptcy.

Shade has other problems, as well. Last year, he lost his position as ILA general vice president after the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, which polices the New York/New Jersey docks for organized-crime ties, concluded that he was prohibited from holding the position due to his criminal history. According to a New York Supreme Court ruling from Oct. 2009, which upheld the commission’s decision, Shade has “convictions for felonies, all dating between 1970 and 1990 and relating to illegal gambling.”

Since 2005, the union’s bosses in New York have been fighting prosecutors who, in a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) case, say the union is captive to organized crime. Hughes and Alston are named as defendants in the case, which includes allegations of no-show jobs. “We’re still waiting for a decision on our motion to dismiss,” says Don Buchwald, Alston’s New York lawyer.

Attempts to reach Shade, Alston, and Hughes to comment for this article were unsuccessful. McHale, who is busy tending to legislative business during the ongoing General Assembly session, also could not be reached for comment. Lawyers for the Tillmans, Zichos, Kowalewski, and Bell either declined to comment or did not return phone calls.

Ronald Barkhorn, one of Local 333’s members and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the local’s leadership, offered his perspective on the ILA’s problems in Baltimore in a recent interview.

“The Tillman thing was just something the feds could use to get the door open,” he says. “To get that warrant to get the payroll records and prove the ‘ghosting,’ when they pad the payroll with fictitious people, just like in the RICO case in New York.” As further evidence of dockside intrigue, he points to another federal criminal case involving embezzlement of pension funds from the Waterfront Guard Association Local 1852, in which two union officers pleaded guilty last year.

“It’s all ongoing,” he says of the government’s waterfront probe, “so you’re not going to find the real deal because it’s all secret.”

Barkhorn’s contention appears to be confirmed in the court record of the timekeepers’ case. The Feb. 17 filing by prosecutors says that the “underlying investigation” is “still ongoing,” though it’s not clear if it refers to just the Tillman case or something more far-reaching.

Future of Sonar in Doubt: Shuttered Club’s New Ownership May Involve Milton Tillman III

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, July 18, 2012

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Even before Baltimore’s Sonar nightclub suddenly closed after its July 8 show (“Death of a Rock and Roll Club,” Noise, July 9, 2012), plans for its future had already been put in place, public records show.

On June 27, the Baltimore City Liquor License Board received an application to transfer Sonar’s liquor license to Eagle Entertainment LLC, which disclosed in its application papers that it had put up a $10,000 down payment on the $65,000 price tag for the license, with the balance due at closing. The payee, Daniel McIntosh, would be the majority owner of Sonar’s current license. Whether that transaction will actually take place is unclear, though, since the company’s attorney, Neal Janey, told City Paper on July 16 that the application will be withdrawn and a new one will be submitted instead, possibly involving a separate company.

The application’s resubmission would likely delay the potential reopening of the club, which was going to take time and significant investment in any event, given what online photographs of the club last show—damage to the club’s bathroom, at the very least, and a sign announcing a “liquidation sale” of its contents.

Eagle Entertainment’s June 27 liquor-board application lists Brian L. Winfield as the anticipated licensee. Winfield is described in the application as an 80-percent stockholder in the company, with the other 20 percent held by Milton Tillman III.

Tillman III is the son and business partner of Baltimore bail bondsman and real-estate investor Milton Tillman Jr., a three-time federal convict who is currently serving a 51-month prison term for tax-and-insurance fraud and owes $120,000 in restitution. Tillman III was charged in the same 2010 indictment as his father (“Milton Tillman and Son Indicted in Bailbonds Conspiracy,” The News Hole, March 17, 2010) , but the charges against him were dismissed last year as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to failing to file tax returns and received five yeas of probation and a $12,500 restitution order, which he still owes, according to court records.

In 2000, Tillman III survived a gunshot wound after a botched drug deal spawned a violent dispute that left two other men dead, according to court records of the successful federal prosecution of the drug organization involved in the incident. During 2002 court proceedings in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Luna stood up in court and called Tillman Jr. “one of the most notorious drug dealers in Baltimore City history,” adding that “there is no question that Mr. Tillman [III]’s father is a reputed drug dealer, a violent type of guy” (“Grave Accusations,” Mobtown Beat, April 23, 2008). Luna’s lifeless body was found face down in a Pennsylvania stream in 2003, a mysterious and controversial death that continues to haunt law enforcers.

Winfield, who has faced charges of petty theft and bouncing checks, has a history of business dealings with the Tillmans, including at Lucky’s Tavern at 1601 N. Milton Ave., a Tillman-owned property that has been in the Tillman family for years. In 2009, Winfield filed to take over Lucky’s liquor license (“Creative Licensing,” Mobtown Beat, April 9, 2008).

In the liquor-license transfer application for Sonar, Winfield says he worked in the mortgage business until 2009, when he went to work for the Baltimore City Department of Finance until Aug. 2010. Since 2006, according to the application, he’s also worked for Baltimore Winfield Showcase, which its website describes as a vending-machine and catering-equipment rental business.

Calls to Winfield and the attorney who filed the liquor-license application, Melvin Kodenski, were not returned. Tillman III, though, spoke briefly to CP on July 12, confirming that he’s “just a stakeholder” in Eagle Entertainment, and that “I’m not going on the license at all.” He then cut short the conversation, saying he wanted his lawyer, Neal Janey, to handle the interview. Later that day, Janey said that Tillman III “is not a 20-percent owner,” and that “the information in that application is incorrect.” Asked if Tillman III would have any involvement at all in the proposed club, Janey said “the only possible involvement would be as a contingent guarantor” on Eagle Entertainment’s debt.

On July 16, Janey informed CP that “the application will be withdrawn; a new application will be filed” that reflects that Tillman III “will have no interest in the business,” though he allowed that it is “still possible” that Tillman III will be a contingent guarantor. “It will probably even be a different LLC [than Eagle Entertainment] that will be involved in the transaction now.”

Under McIntosh, Sonar is alleged to have played a role in a massive, cross-country marijuana conspiracy, currently being prosecuted by the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office (“Feds Namedrop Baltimore’s Sonar Nightclub in New Pot-Conspiracy Indictment,” The News Hole, April 12, 2012). McIntosh is one of 16 people charged in the case, and, unlike most of his alleged co-conspirators, has not pleaded guilty; he is scheduled for trial in September. Baltimore developer Jeremy Landsman (“Smoked Out,” Mobtown Beat, February 29, 2012), a stakeholder in the LLC that owns Sonar’s building, pleaded guilty to his part in the conspiracy in June. In his plea, he admits that a number of his property-owning LLCs—including the one that owns the Hampden property where another McIntosh business, McCabe’s Tavern, is located—also played a role in the conspiracy.

Since shortly after Sonar closed July 8, McIntosh has been telling CP that he intends to post a prepared statement online to explain his ordeal with the club, including why it shut down, and that he would grant an interview about the situation once he had done so. As of press time, the statement had not been posted on Sonar’s website or Facebook page, and McIntosh has not responded to CP’s emails since July 13.

Grave Accusations: Dead Prosecutor Luna Dubbed Bondsman Tillman Jr. a “Violent Drug Dealer”

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Apr. 23, 2008

In May 2002, federal prosecutor Jonathan Paul Luna stood up in a Baltimore courtroom and called bail-bondsman Milton Tillman Jr. a “violent drug dealer,” even though Tillman Jr. hadn’t–and still hasn’t–been convicted of violent, drug-related crimes. Luna was not yet famous; that would come after his violent death in a rural Pennsylvania stream, in December 2003. But Tillman Jr. was and is famous, at least locally, a fact that was part of Luna’s point: In gangland Baltimore, he argued, Tillman Jr.’s role as the patriarch of a drug-dealing family strikes fear in the hearts of other gangsters.

The case at hand was against Eric Lamont Bennett’s drug organization, which had operated in the late 1990s in Baltimore and Westminster, and the crimes Luna was prosecuting included the East Baltimore shooting, in 2000, of Tillman Jr.’s son, Milton Tillman III, nicknamed “Mo.” The violence erupted over a drug deal gone bad, and though Mo survived, two other men were murdered before the night was out.

By May 2002, Luna had won convictions against men held responsible for these and other crimes, including Bennett, Solomon Jones, and Tavon Bradley. The three have since won appeals and Jones and Bradley been reconvicted and resentenced. Bennett was scheduled to be resentenced on April 18, but the hearing was postponed and has not yet been rescheduled.

The three convicts had been part of a team of drug dealers who had sold Mo and two other buyers a bag of baking soda for $3,000 on Jan. 18, 2000. Before Mo and his friends could learn they’d been burned, Bennett’s gang went gunning for them. Luna asserted that, having robbed Tillman Jr.’s son, they figured they were as good as dead unless they struck first.

Luna based his comments on the trial testimony of Damien Simmons, the man who shot Mo three times in the back and became a cooperating witness against Bennett and the others, and on a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration memo. That document, dated March 2000, called Tillman Jr. the head of a crime family with a 20-year history in the East Baltimore heroin trade and warned that the then-imprisoned Tillman Jr. appeared to be conspiring to hit back at Bennett and his crew.

The portrait of Tillman Jr. painted by Luna at Bennett’s first sentencing hearing complicates Tillman Jr.’s public persona, which has been forged by years of press coverage. News consumers would think Tillman Jr. is simply a politically connected bail-bondsman, real-estate investor, and nightclub impresario with convictions in the 1990s for attempted bribery and tax evasion. Luna’s statements about Tillman Jr., which have not been disclosed in news reports until now, get at the Tillman family’s street-level reputation as a force to be reckoned with in Baltimore’s drug-fueled shadow economy.

Luna’s focus on Tillman Jr. does not discount the alleged criminal career of at least one other family member: Stanford Stansbury. After Tillman III was shot in 2000 and thought he might die from his injuries, court records show, he told detectives that his cousin Stanford Stansbury would know the last name of “Ericky,” the man Tillman III believed to be responsible for the shooting. Last March, Stansbury and two other men, Harry Burton and Allen Gill, were federally indicted for running a murderous, decade-long drug conspiracy based at the Latrobe Homes housing project in East Baltimore. Today, Stansbury has secured a guilty-plea agreement in which he is a cooperating witness against Burton and Gill, whom prosecutors are seeking to give the death penalty in a trial scheduled for June.

Stansbury’s lawyer, Stuart O. Simms, a former Baltimore City state’s attorney and former secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, did not return a call for comment. Simms, as city state’s attorney in the 1980s, oversaw probes into Tillman Jr.’s suspected criminal activities. In 2006, New Trend Development, Tillman Jr.’s main real-estate company, contributed money to Simms’ failed run for Maryland attorney general.

The Tillman family’s business dealings drew public attention during a trial last year in which a jury determined that Tillman Jr., his son, and the other defendant, Bernard Dixon, did not intend to post multiple bails on properties in order to spring high-bail defendants out of lockup, as state criminal charges had contended. Since March, City Paper has published five articles in which Tillman Jr. was part of the story. Two were about a fugitive drug trafficker (“Flight Connections,” Mobtown Beat, March 12; “One Angry Man,” Mobtown Beat, March 26); one was about a felonious, bounty-hunting minister (“Preacher, Teacher, Forger, Spy,” Feature, April 16); another covered the Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners’ scant control over criminals influencing the city’s bar business (“Creative Licensing,” Mobtown Beat, April 9); and one second-guessed the deaconlike image of a former heroin trafficker (“Redemption Song and Dance,” Mobtown Beat, March 19).

Tillman Jr.’s success in bail bonds and real estate appears to have soared since his release from prison in 2000. His Four Aces Bail Bonds has rapidly put a large dent in the dominance of the Baltimore City bail-bonds market traditionally enjoyed by Fred W. Frank Bail Bonds. “There is no question he has affected our business,” company President Barry Udoff confirms. New Trend Development, related businesses, and Tillman Jr. associates have acquired nearly $10 million in Baltimore-area real-estate holdings since 2000, according to property records. Meanwhile, Tillman Jr.’s political clout has also grown, as measured by the thousands of dollars in donations from Four Aces and New Trend to local politicians since his release from prison.

Luna’s career was cut short by his death in Pennsylvania in early December 2003. His body was found before dawn, drowned in a stream in Lancaster County, midway between Philadelphia and Harrisburg along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He’d been stabbed dozens of times, though not deeply, and his car sat idling close by. He had last been seen late the night before at his downtown Baltimore office. The local authorities deemed it a homicide, while the FBI leaked information to the press suggesting it was suicide, but the case remains unsolved. A book has been written about it, The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna (“Plot Device,” Books, Feb. 23, 2005), and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, continues to press for progress in getting it solved.

The Bennett prosecution was but a piece of Luna’s caseload against violent drug dealers, and it was over a year and a half before Luna died. There is nothing to suggest that the mysteries surrounding Luna’s death are in any way tied to Tillman Jr. or members of his family.

Luna’s insights into the Tillmans in the Bennett case gives the public an evidentiary record that the family was in the drug game. “Let me speak very frankly,” Luna said, according to the court transcript. “It is not news to most people in this courtroom that Mr. Tillman is the son of one of the most notorious drug dealers in Baltimore City history. That is a fact.” Luna also said that “there is no question that Mr. Tillman’s father is a reputed drug dealer, a violent type of guy.”

Underscoring Luna’s contention was a March 2000 DEA memo stating that the agency’s “investigation into the Tillman family has revealed that the family has been active for the past 20 years in the Baltimore, East-side based, heroin traffic. Milton Tillman, Jr., the patriarch, is currently in the last six months of a Federal prison sentence in Butner, North Carolina for tax evasion. Phone conversations made by Tillman, Jr., from . . . Butner to his son and associates indicate that a retaliatory strike against the Bennett organization is imminent.”

The Bennett trial testimony of Damien Simmons, the man who shot Tillman III, also supported Luna’s statements that Tillman Jr. was known as a feared, high-level player in the drug game. The trial transcript shows that Simmons answered “Yes,” when asked if Bennett told him to shoot Tillman III and his associates because of whom Tillman III’s father is. Simmons pleaded guilty to his part in the Bennett organization’s crimes and is scheduled for release from federal prison in 2017.

“Jon Luna wasn’t just relying on the DEA memo when he said these things about Tillman Jr.,” recalls defense attorney Harvey Greenberg, who represented Jones in the Bennett case. “He also had Simmons’ testimony. Luna was trying to be frank about the background of the shooting and what prompted it. He was being open and honest, and telling what he knew to be true with evidence to back it up.”

Tillman Jr. did not respond to detailed messages left at his office and with his attorney, Greg Dorsey. U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Marcia Murphy says her agency would not comment about Luna’s statements regarding Tillman Jr., and also would not respond to questions involving the Bennett or Stansbury cases, because “we don’t discuss our charging decisions or prosecution strategy.”

Some of the politicians who have received campaign support from Tillman Jr.’s companies, however, did respond to City Paper‘s inquiries. “I did?!” Baltimore County Circuit Court Associate Judge Mickey Norman exclaims, when told his judicial campaign committee in 2005 got money from one of Tillman Jr.’s companies. “I honestly don’t know about that,” Norman says, explaining that judges’ campaigns are set up so the judges themselves are insulated from the fundraising process and have little, if any, knowledge of who’s supporting their candidacies.

“Did I?” Baltimore City Deputy Mayor and former state delegate Salima Siler Marriott asks when told about Tillman Jr.’s donation to her campaign. She says she doesn’t know the man, either by name or personally. Messages left with nine other politicians–eight of them Democrats, including Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith; House of Delegates Majority Whip Talmadge Branch (45th District); Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot; former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich; and Sen. Nathaniel McFadden (45th District), the chairman of the Baltimore City state Senate delegation–were not returned by press time.

Greenberg, however, is intrigued by City Paper‘s inquiries, suggesting that what Luna had to say about Tillman Jr. is already widely recognized among lawyers, law enforcers, and others familiar with the local crime scene. “Do you find Luna’s comments remarkable?” he asks. “Because I don’t.”

Additional reporting by Jeffrey Anderson And Chris Landers