- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) Two convicted heroin dealers, who avoided returning to prison by agreeing to cooperate with authorities, engaged in arson, drug dealing, attempted murder and rape, prosecutors say.
James E. Gross Sr., 44, was released from prison in 2000 and remained free for eight months until he was charged with kidnapping and raping a 12-year-old girl at Strawberry's 5000, a Baltimore County bar, the Baltimore Sun reported yesterday.
The now-closed club in Rosedale was the base of operations for the crime ring run by Gross and his partner, Louis W. Colvin, 43, authorities said.
Colvin stayed out of jail until last spring, when a federal grand jury handed up a racketeering indictment against him, Gross and five other men.
Authorities declined to say what role the two men have played in city drug investigations.
"In order to get a narcotics conspiracy, you oftentimes have to have cooperators who themselves are exposed to criminal offenses," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Evans, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office in Baltimore.
Gross and Colvin were named this spring as the lead defendants in a high-profile, organized-crime case. Colvin pleaded guilty Thursday to racketeering and is expected now to provide prosecutors with information and testimony that could help send Gross to prison.
Their story begins in 1990, when both were convicted on federal gun and drug violations.
Each served nearly nine years and was released in 1998. Within a year, they again faced prison time this time for probation violations, including evidence of new drug activity.
A federal prosecutor told a judge in an April 2000 letter that the men "have requested the opportunity to provide substantial assistance to the government" landing the two a deal that kept them from going back to prison.
Federal prosecutors made the request on behalf of Baltimore prosecutors, who were working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on a complex narcotics investigation, Miss Evans said.
Gross remained free until he was charged with the rape; Colvin remained free until the federal racketeering indictment.
Miss Evans said authorities moved swiftly to revoke the deal after learning about Gross' arrest in the rape case.
Court records suggest that soon after their 1998 release, the two opened Strawberry's and used it as a front for a wide range of criminal activity, including drug dealing, insurance fraud, attempted murder and arson.


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