June 18, 2004
Contact: Public Information Officer
Phone Number: (202) 305-8426
31 Indicted For Operating A Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Enterprise
JUN 18 -- Laura M. Nagel, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Washington Division announced today that a federal grand jury indicted Paulette Martin, age 57, of Takoma Park, Maryland, and 30 others for crimes arising from their three and a half year operation of a large drug trafficking and money laundering enterprise in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.
The second superceding indictment charges that from at least January 2001 through May 31, 2004, the defendants distributed multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin throughout the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and had become a major drug source in this area. The defendants received their narcotics from organizations in New York, Los Angeles, and the Caribbean. Some members of the organization utilized their drug proceeds to fraudulently purchase life insurance policies on individuals without those individuals’ knowledge, and collected on these policies when the individuals died. From about June 13, 1995 until March 2004, one of the leaders of this organization, Paulette Martin, worked in conjunction with Richard Gunn, an insurance agent doing business in Burtonsville, Maryland, to acquire over 17 life insurance policies that were opened on numerous individuals, many of whom also have criminal backgrounds. As recently as March 2004, Martin and her co-conspirators collected the insurance proceeds as a result of the fraudulent scheme.
This investigation, known as Operation Encore, was initiated in October 2002 by investigators of the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Maryland. This investigation involved a multi-agency drug-money laundering task force including the Prince George’s County Police, Montgomery Police, Maryland State Police, Baltimore City Police, Howard County Police, and Baltimore County Police departments. The Insurance-Fraud Division of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General assisted with the insurance fraud investigation.
Beginning June 1, 2004, this multi-agency task force executed 30 federal search warrants throughout Maryland, Washington D.C., and New York, resulting in the arrest of 29 individuals on federal drug conspiracy and mail-wire fraud charges. During this enforcement action, agents seized 8 handguns, a ballistic vest, large quantities of cocaine and heroin, and over one million dollars in criminal proceeds that this organization had accumulated through their operation.
Several weeks earlier, the multi-agency task force arrested Gwendolyn Levi, age 60, of Elkridge, Maryland, Donna Johnson, age 46, of Landover, Maryland, and Juan Manuel Rojas-Castro, age 29, of Bronx, New York. These individuals were found in possession of over 3 kilograms of heroin, a quarter million dollars in cash, and, as part of this organization, have been determined to be responsible for importing large quantities of heroin into Maryland from the New York area.
Twenty-nine defendants have been taken into custody. The remaining 2 defendants are fugitives and are currently being sought.
The maximum penalty for the drug conspiracy count is life imprisonment, and 20 years for the mail and wire fraud related charges.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charges by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deborah A. Johnston and Bonnie S. Greenberg.