Following a six-month long investigation involving wiretaps and undercover personnel, 14 people were arrested late last week in connection with a prescription drug network operating out of Harford County, local law enforcement officials said Monday.
The arrests were the culmination of an investigation which began with a tip from a confidential source and led to the execution Friday of 31 search and seizure warrants by the Harford County Task Force, an alliance of several local law enforcement agencies and the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office.
At the center of the network, according to police, was Ronnie Stocks, 33, of Abingdon, who is charged with three counts of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone and cocaine, and three counts of distribution of Oxycodone. Stocks was held on $1,000,000 bond. Three other men were key players in the network, and 10 others played some role in the organization, according to Lt. Lee Dunbar of the Harford County Task Force.
Police seized approximately 3,000 prescription pills of various types, predominately opioids, as well as unspecified amounts of cocaine, marijuana, and steroids. A total of 19 firearms, 10 vehicles, and approximately $30,000 in cash were also seized.
In addition to Stocks, those arrested and charged included:
– Joseph Ercolano, 32, of Fallston; two counts of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone; $750,000 bond.
– Sean C. Holloway, 36, of White Marsh; two counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and Oxycodone; $750,000 bond
– Eric Smith, 34, of Nottingham; two counts of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone; $750,000 bond.
– Sharon Gillums, 50, of Edgewood; one count of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone; $250,000 bond.
– Brent S. Musgrove, 36, of Aberdeen; one count of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone; $250,000 bond.
– William C. Kendall, 44, of Bel Air; one count of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone; $250,000 bond.
– Matthew C. Kolakowski, 29, of Abingdon; one count of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone; $250,000 bond.
– Gregory Sobieski, 25, of Bel Air; one count of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone, and one count of distribution of Oxycodone; $250,000 bond.
– Kenneth Darr, 36, of White Marsh; one count of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone; $250,000 bond.
– Wilbert Whitaker III, 24, of Bel Air; one count of distribution of Oxycodone; $250,000 bond.
– Curtis Carter, 36, of Havre de Grace; one count of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone; $150,000 bond.
– Taaz A. Robinson, 28, of Aberdeen; one count of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone; released on his own recognizance.
– Ryan C. Sturm, 27, of Towson; one count of possession of Oxycodone; released on his own recognizance.
Dunbar declined to specify the exact role of each individual in the network, saying that a federal investigation is ongoing and could result in further charges. But, he said the efforts revolved around Stocks.
“He had people who he relied on, either to illegally obtain prescription pills, or reaching out to people who had the pills legally and wanted to sell them,” Dunbar said. “Some of the people we’re looking at may have financed the network.”
Dunbar added that the operation serviced a “huge demand” with customers ranging from teenagers to the elderly. While he said no doctors issued illegal prescriptions, the group used other methods to obtain the pills, including paying people who had legit prescriptions, using fraudulent prescriptions, and using out-of-state sources.
Harford County State’s Attorney Joe Cassilly said two prosecutors have been assigned to the case, and expect to present it to a Maryland grand jury in about a month. He said a U.S. Attorney may take some of the cases, and Dunbar said investigations are continuing in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Florida.
“Our most difficult and pervasive problem is with prescription drugs,” Cassilly said at a media event to announce the arrests. He said that prescription drug abuse is, “not just a drug problem, [but] an addiction problem.”
Dunbar said the investigation began with a tip from a confidential informant, and authorities began looking into Stocks, eventually placing undercover officers into his organization.
“It grew from there, once we got our tentacles in, so to speak, we realized how widespread it was, how many pills they were moving,” Dunbar said. “We do feel like we got the core of this organization, the guys who were driving it.”
Eventually, after fulfilling a court-mandated requirement to exhaust all other avenues of investigation, Dunbar said the task force sought and obtained wiretaps. He added that the task force is seeking some grant funds from the U.S. Department of Justice to recoup the costs incurred to local agencies during the investigation.
Dunbar said he believed the arrests put “a dent” in the county’s prescription drug market, but said more work remains.
“We eradicated a big chunk of the flow,” he said. “But we know it’s still out there. Hopefully through the course of this investigation, people realize it is a big deal.”
Cindy Mumby contributed reporting to this story.
The press release from Harford County Sheriff’s Office is below:
(Harford County, MD – April 18, 2011) The Harford County Task Force announced the conclusion of a six-month investigation, which resulted in the dismantling of a large-scale multi-county narcotics operation involving the sale and distribution of illegal prescription drugs.
The investigation, of which Harford County was at the nucleus, began with a tip from a confidential source. Electronic surveillance which included a wiretap, aided in the investigation, which concluded on Friday, April 15, 2011 with the execution of thirty-one court, ordered search and seizure warrants.
“Since its inception in 1988, the Harford County Task Force has been instrumental in combating narcotics violations in Harford County. The task force concept of collaborating with municipal, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies is extremely vital to successfully identifying, investigating and apprehending narcotics violators,” stated Sheriff L. Jesse Bane. “As this investigation unfolded, we quickly began to realize how pervasive the sales of illegal prescription drugs had grown in our community. While the abuse of a prescription medication does not hold the same stigma of more traditionally abused illegal drugs, it is just as addictive and destructive; and contributes to just as much crime and violence in a community.”
Law Enforcement Officers seized approximately 1,500 pills of various types (predominantly opioids) with a street value of over $ 45,000. In addition to the illegal prescription drugs recovered, investigators seized cocaine, marijuana, steroids, fourteen firearms, ten vehicles and an undisclosed amount of cash.
Fourteen people have been arrested and charged on a variety of state and local charges:
• Ronnie Stocks, age, 33, Abingdon, MD $1,000,000 bond
• Joseph Ercolano, age 32, Fallston, MD $750,000 bond
• Sean C. Holloway, age 36, White Marsh, MD $750,000 bond
• Eric Smith, age 34, Nottingham, MD $750,000 bond
• Sharon Gillums, age 50, Edgewood MD $250,000 bond
• Brent S. Musgrove, age 36, Aberdeen, MD $250,000 bond
• William C. Kendall, age 44, Bel Air, MD $250,000 bond
• Matthew C. Kolakowski, age 29, Abingdon, MD $250,000 bond
• Gregory Sobieski, age 25, Bel Air, MD $250,000 bond
• Kenneth J. Darr, age 36, White Marsh MD $250,000 bond
• Wilbert Whitaker III, age 24, Bel Air, MD $200,000 bond
• Curtis Carter, age 36, Havre de Grace, MD $150,000 bond
• Taaz A. Robinson, age 28, Aberdeen, MD ROR
• Ryan C. Sturm, age 27, Towson, MD ROR
“As we investigated this drug organization, we found there were no socio-economic distinctions between users and dealers involved. There is high demand for this type of drug. In fact, those who have traditionally been involved in the sale of cocaine and crack have now moved into the illegal prescription drug trade,” stated Lieutenant Lee Dunbar of the Harford County Task Force.
The execution of the search and seizure warrants occurring in less than eight hours in three counties (Harford, Baltimore & Anne Arundel) was a collaborative effort between various jurisdictions and agencies, allowing a successful completion without incident.
• Harford County Task Force
• Harford County Sheriff’s Office
• Aberdeen Police Department
• Havre de Grace Police Department
• Maryland State Police
• Cecil County Task Force
• Baltimore County Police Department
• Carroll County Task Force
• Harford County State’s Attorney Office
The Harford County Task Force, consisting of Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, Harford County States Attorney’s Office, Aberdeen Police Department, and Havre de Grace Police Department, was formed to focus on the larger and more complex narcotic and vice investigations that take place throughout the county. This task force conducts criminal investigations, targets high-level drug traffickers, importers, and money laundering organizations. With the help of both concerned citizens and narcotic users, the Harford County Task force attempts to seek out and limit the illegal flow of narcotics in Harford County MD. The Task Force is not restricted to county boundaries and with the aid and assistance of Local, County, State and Federal authorities; they investigate all leads of narcotic activity wherever the resolution points.
The Harford County Task Force relies heavily on concerned citizens and all members of the community, to supply them with the necessary information to control illegal activity. Anyone with this type of information is encouraged to contact the Harford County Task Force Tip line 410-836-7788 or submit a tip on the Harford County Sheriff’s Office Web Site – www.harfordsheriff.org