The bare bones of a nationwide drug-trafficking organization, including the business partner of a Hollywood filmmaker with ties to City Hall ("The Company You Keep," Mobtown Beat, Sept. 10), have been described by federal prosecutors in a series of hearings over the past two weeks. The case, which started with three defendants, now has eight [pdf]. It alleges a violent and far-flung cocaine conspiracy featuring a pair of notorious East Baltimore figures.
Named in the initial indictment is Lawrence "Lorenzo" Reeves, a prior drug convict in Maryland and Arizona, who earlier this year co-founded Hollywood in a Bottle, an educational initiative for youngsters interested in entertainment careers. His partner in the venture is Baltimore native LaVern Whitt, a former Hollywood stuntwoman and co-producer with Warner Music Group's Kevin Liles--also a Baltimore native--of a documentary-in-progress about Baltimore's four top elected officials called Women in Power.
At his detention hearing on Sept. 3, prosecutors described Devon Marshall as a menacing street enforcer whom Lorenzo Reeves tasked with inflicting violence over drug-money disputes. A recent search of Marshall's Harford County home produced three loaded weapons and an assault rifle containing 20 armor-piercing bullets. A federal judge ordered him detained as a flight risk and an ongoing danger to society.
Otis Rich, a career criminal, pleaded not guilty to coke trafficking on Sept. 22 and also has been detained. His criminal record dates to 1993, when he pleaded guilty to felony drug charges in a case that saw East Baltimore bail bondsman Milton Tillman post his own property at 1506 N. Chapel St. as bond for Rich. Since then, Rich, who has several aliases, has been convicted twice on drugs and firearms charges. In three separate cases since the early 1990s, the state also has declined to prosecute him on murder and attempted murder charges.
Speaking on background, a top Baltimore law enforcer describes Rich and Marshall (who has a conspiracy conviction and numerous violent drug charges dating to the early 1990s) as major figures. "Devon Marshall is equally feared and loved in this town and for good reason," the law enforcer says. "Otis Rich is a big catch."
Reeves' other alleged co-conspirators include William Leonardo "Leo" Graham, of Baltimore, who was ordered detained on Sept. 18 based on multiple prior felony drug convictions, a prior handgun conviction and the threat to "community safety." Nathaniel Lee "Big Nate" Jones, of Calvert County, pleaded not guilty on Sept. 22 and was released. Jones pleaded guilty to felony drug charges in 2006 and was sentenced to a 10-year prison term, most of which was suspended.
Still at large is 32-year-old Marcos Galindo, who has a prior drugs-and-weapons record in Arizona. In corporate records there, Galindo is listed as director of Precision Installation of Mesa, Ariz., a company that designs office space and ships furniture.
Juan Nunez first appeared in federal court on Sept. 17, and argued successfully for release on Sept. 23 before U.S. District Judge Susan Gauvey. However, U.S. District Judge William Quarles immediately overturned the decision and detained Nunez, after hearing allegations of Nunez using aliases, depositing large sums of money and acquiring luxury cars despite no reported income from various businesses, including an internet business and an interstate transportation company.
The eighth member of the alleged cocaine conspiracy is Justin Santiago Gallardo, of Annapolis. He was released following his indictment on Sept. 3.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Lorenzo Reeves also has been released. He could not be reached for comment. His Hollywood in a Bottle business partner LaVern Whitt, who has not been implicated in the conspiracy, has referred all inquiries about her relationship with Reeves to criminal-defense specialist Warren Brown. Brown confirms that Reeves took out a bank loan and invested money in Hollywood in a Bottle, but insists his client is in the clear. "What's Reeves' role in all of this?" Brown asks. "A lot of times these guys put A together with B to bring them into a conspiracy. If he was secretive about whom he was dealing with, how can [they] put anything on my client?"