7 Baltimore cops arrested in federal racketeering conspiracy

If convicted, the seven officers face up to 20 years in federal prison.

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Seven Baltimore police officers who worked together in a specialized gun task force were arrested Wednesday on federal racketeering charges, including robbery, extortion, filing false arrest reports, swearing out false search warrant affidavits, and numerous other crimes. In a separate seven-count indictment, one of the detectives has also been charged with participating in a drug-dealing conspiracy after he allegedly provided the criminals with sensitive information and helped remove a GPS tracking device placed by DEA agents.

“This is not about aggressive policing, it is about a criminal conspiracy,” stated U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. “Prosecuting criminals who work in police agencies is essential both to protect victims and to support the many honorable officers whose reputations they unfairly tarnish.”

Between 2015 and 2016, Baltimore Detectives Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayam, Marcus Taylor, Maurice Ward, and Sgt. Wayne Jenkins allegedly participated in a racketeering conspiracy while working in the department’s Gun Trace Task Force. According to the indictment, the officers repeatedly abused their authority by stealing money, property, and narcotics from detainees, and in some cases, the officers reportedly stole money that had been lawfully earned by victims who had not committed a crime.

In order to cover up their illicit activities, the officers are accused of falsifying arrest reports, turning off their body cameras, swearing out false search warrant affidavits, submitting fraudulent overtime hours, and coaching each other to give false testimony to investigators from the Internal Investigations Division of the BPD. In a recorded phone conversation from July 2016, Gondo told Rayam that working for the BPD was “easy money” and that “one hour can be eight hours,” referring to the fraudulent overtime hours on his paychecks.

On July 8, 2016, Rayam submitted an affidavit for a search warrant that falsely claimed he, Gondo, and Jenkins had conducted a full day of surveillance on a suspected drug residence according to the indictment. After stealing $3,400 in cash from the suspects during a traffic stop that day, Rayam, Gondo, Jenkins, and Hersl allegedly stole an additional $20,000 from the suspects’ home and later argued over how to divide the money.

In a separate seven-count indictment, Gondo has been accused of participating in a conspiracy to sell heroin primarily near the Alameda Shopping Center in Baltimore. Besides admitting in a phone call that “I sell drugs,” Gondo reportedly provided sensitive law enforcement information to his fellow co-conspirators to avoid prosecution. In addition to assisting in the removal of a GPS tracking device planted by the DEA on a drug dealer’s car, Gondo also advised another co-conspirator about law enforcement operations concerning illicit drug activities.

On Wednesday, the seven Baltimore officers were arrested on federal racketeering and conspiracy charges for multiple crimes, including robbery, extortion, filing false reports, fraudulent overtime pay, and numerous civil rights violations. Det. Gondo was also indicted for allegedly participating in a drug-dealing conspiracy along with five civilians caught distributing heroin at a local mall in Baltimore.

“The police officers charged today with crimes that erode trust with our community have disgraced the Baltimore Police Department and our profession,” stated Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. “We will not shy away from accountability, as our community and the men and women who serve our City every day with pride and integrity deserve nothing less. Our investigative partnership with the FBI will continue as we strive to improve. Reform isn’t always a pretty thing to watch unfold, but it’s necessary in our journey toward a police department our City deserves.”

If convicted, the seven officers face up to 20 years in federal prison. If convicted of the drug charges, Gondo could face an additional 60 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

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