- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

BALTIMORE — Thirteen persons, including a man who appears in a video designed to scare residents from informing police about drug dealers, have been indicted in connection with a large and violent drug trafficking operation in Baltimore, law-enforcement officials announced yesterday.

The operation, known as the Rice Organization, sold more than 3,520 pounds of cocaine and heroin over 10 years in Baltimore, acting U.S. Attorney Allen Loucks said at a press conference announcing the indictments. The 20-count indictment also says the group conducted contract murders to protect its trade.

“They were one of the most lucrative and dangerous organizations that was operating in Baltimore City,” said Russell Benson, special agent in charge of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s Baltimore office.

The government is seeking the forfeiture of $27 million in criminal proceeds, including homes and luxury vehicles. “This is a big organization,” State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy said.

Twelve of the men were in custody, and police were seeking the 13th.

Six defendants — brothers Howard Rice, 38, and Raeshio Rice, 32; Anthony Leonard, 35; Steven Campbell, 39; Eric Clash, 26; and Eric Hall, 34 — have been charged with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy.

The six — with Keenan Dorsey, 39; Michael Felder, 39; and Chet Pajardo, 36 — also have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine from 1995 onward.

Mr. Hall is accused of being a hit man for the operation and killing Dante Green in 1996 and Marvin Nutter in 2003. Mr. Hall also is accused of trying to kill two other men.

The Rice brothers and Mr. Hall face the death penalty if convicted of conspiring to kill Mr. Green.

Defendants George Butler, 30; James Jones, 30; Oreese Stevenson, 25; and Robert Baker, 57, have been charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin.

Police identify Mr. Butler as one of the men who appears in the homemade digital video disc titled “Stop Snitching,” which has been sold on Baltimore streets for $10 since November. In the video, Mr. Butler, who is seated in a barber’s chair, pulls a gun out of his waistband and says: “We don’t talk about what we’re going to do. We just do it.”

The DVD, which briefly features Denver Nuggets star and Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony laughing on a street as another man talks, has outraged law-enforcement officials, prompting them to seek legislation to strengthen witness-intimidation laws. Anthony, who has said he wasn’t aware of the DVD’s message, said he will help with a state campaign against drugs and violence, after criticism over his appearance in the production.

The investigation began almost two years ago after work by a Baltimore undercover police officer on a well-known drug corner, Miss Jessamy said. The work led to a search and seizure, and a state wiretap investigation. Federal and local authorities worked together on the case.

Acting Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm said residents will notice a difference on the streets. However, he conceded that the void left by the Rice Organization probably will be filled by other drug dealers.

“But now the players know it’s a different way of doing business now. They’re going to be risking much, much more,” he said.

Authorities say the operation got its supply from Mexico and Colombia.

The federal indictment represents the third time in the past three years that the U.S. attorney’s office has used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute to prosecute violent drug organizations.

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