- Associated Press - Thursday, March 10, 2011

BALTIMORE (AP) - An actress who appeared on the HBO series “The Wire” has been charged with conspiring to sell heroin and was one of dozens arrested in early morning raids across Baltimore, authorities said Thursday.

Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, 30, is among 64 people charged in a joint state-federal prosecution of a large east Baltimore drug gang. She is charged in state court with conspiring with two men to distribute heroin and aiding and abetting.

Local television showed video DEA agents leading Pearson from an apartment building downtown to a waiting police van. She was one of 37 people arrested by about 450 federal, state and local officers early Thursday. Twenty-two face state charges and 15 are charged in a federal indictment unsealed Thursday with conspiracy to distribute drugs and possession with intent to distribute. A 38th person arrested earlier this month was charged in a federal criminal complaint. Authorities are still looking for the remaining 26 people charged.

The indictment states that since 2008, members of the conspiracy bought heroin from New York and marijuana from California and sold the drugs on the streets of Baltimore neighborhoods. As part of the conspiracy, the indictment alleges that members discussed who failed to perform required tasks were dealt with violently.

Officers seized $69,000, four guns, marijuana and heroin in “Operation Usual Suspects,” which built on hundreds of hours of investigation dating back to 2008, Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said.

“People might say, ‘From 2008, what took you so long?’” Bealefeld said. “We want to build good, solid prosecutions.”

The DEA’s approach is to work with local officials to target the source of the drugs to have an impact and that’s just what they did in this case, said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ava Cooper-Davis.

“We have removed the entire drug organization,” she said. “We got the top, we got the bottom, we got everything in between.”

The arrests make a section of the city safer and should be a reminder to other “bad guys” out on the streets of Baltimore that police are watching, Bealefeld said.

“They’re going out a doing shootings and murders and robbing innocent people across our city,” he said. “You got our attention and we’re going to put together a big anvil and drop it on your head.”

“The Wire,” which ran from 2002 to 2008, was filmed in Baltimore and put a spotlight on the city’s struggle with poverty and drug violence through the stories of the city’s police, drug organizations, schools, politicians and media. Pearson’s character, which shares the nickname “Snoop,” knocks off several people for the fictitious Stanfield drug gang.

This is not Pearson’s first brush with the law. She was convicted of second-degree murder in a slaying committed when she was 14. She served five years of an eight-year sentence and was released in 2000.

Pearson was arrested on a minor drug charge in 2008 when police went to her home to pick her up for refusing to cooperate as a witness in the trial of Steven Lashley, who was accused of stabbing three men, killing one, in an adult-entertainment district in downtown Baltimore called “The Block.”

The Baltimore Sun reported last year that after Pearson informed the parties that she would invoke her right against self-incrimination if forced to testify, Lashley pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and two counts of assault. Court records show Pearson was found not guilty on the drug charge.