Baltimore fentanyl dealer pleads guilty to distributing thousands of fentanyl tablets made to look like oxycodone
BALTIMORE – Last week, three defendants facing fentanyl distribution charges appeared in federal court—a Baltimore man pleaded guilty to distributing fentanyl and two defendants had their initial appearances on federal indictments charging them for allegedly distributing fentanyl. One of the defendants is charged federally for distributing fentanyl which resulted in death. These cases are part of the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office’s focus on combatting the growing fentanyl crisis. According to statistics for the first-half of 2019, there are projected to be almost 2,000 fentanyl deaths statewide, and in Baltimore alone there are projected to be more than twice as many fatal fentanyl overdoses as homicides.
The guilty plea and indictments were announced by DEA's Washington Field Division Special Agent in Charge Jesse R. Fong; United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department; Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler; Anne Arundel County Police Chief Tim Altomare; Carroll County Sheriff James DeWees; and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and just 2 milligrams of fentanyl can kill you. Law enforcement partners are working together to arrest and prosecute those who peddle deadly fentanyl on our streets and in our neighborhoods,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “Drug traffickers are on notice that dealing in fentanyl increases their odds of federal prosecution. We are determined to reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths in Maryland.”
On November 19, 2019, Earl Joseph Morris, III, age 42, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty to the federal charge of possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl. According to Morris’ plea agreement, on November 29, 2018, an undercover Baltimore County Police detective purchased $400 worth of fentanyl tablets from Morris—31 tablets of fentanyl, which resembled 15 mg Oxycodone pills, weighing 3.32 grams. Law enforcement subsequently obtained search and seizure warrants. On December 6, 2018, search warrants were executed on Morris’ vehicle, his home, and his person, after Morris met an undercover detective who had arranged to purchase additional fentanyl tablets from Morris. Law enforcement seized of 1,859 tablets of suspected fentanyl from Morris’ vehicle, as well as additional pills. Subsequent lab analysis indicated that the 1,859 tablets tested positive for fentanyl or a mix of heroin/fentanyl. The total weight of these tablets was 192.81 grams.
Morris faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison for possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has scheduled sentencing for February 20, 2020, at 2:00 p.m.
On November 6, 2019, a federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment charging Khalil Shaheed, a/k/a “T,” age 26, of Baltimore, for crimes that allegedly occurred in October and November 2017, specifically, distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking crime, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. Shaheed is charged in a separate federal indictment for possession with intent to distribute controlled substances in August 2019. Both indictments were unsealed on November 20, 2019, when Shaheed had his initial appearance on the federal charges. U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah L. Boardman ordered Shaheed to be detained pending trial.
A federal grand jury indicted Jacob Leister, age 28, of Glenville, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 2019, and he was arrested the following day by DEA, the Anne Arundel County Police, and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. Leister had his initial appearance on November 22, 2019, on a four-count federal indictment charging Leister for distribution of and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and alprazolam. Leister remains in custody.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
If convicted, Shaheed faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life in federal prison for distribution of fentanyl resulting in death; a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, and a maximum of life in federal prison for possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking crime; and a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. Shaheed and Leister each face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for each count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the DEA for their work in all three cases; the Baltimore County Police Department for its investigation in the Morris case; the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, and the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City for their work in the Shaheed cases; and the Anne Arundel County Police Department for its investigation in the Leister case. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anatoly Smolkin and Kenneth S. Clark, who are prosecuting the Morris and Leister cases, respectively, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Oldham and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey M. Hann, a cross-designated Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorney, who are prosecuting the Shaheed case.