Task force gets proceeds from raid

November 20, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Crime doesn't pay but don't tell that to the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

The agency on Tuesday accepted a $59,827.49 check as its share of the proceeds from a March 2000 drug raid in Hagerstown in which 5 pounds of cocaine and $85,610 in cash were seized.

"The money was forwarded to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which kept 20 percent and returned the rest to us," said Mark Holtzman, current director of the task force, which is composed of city, county, state and federal drug agents.

Holtzman said the task force averages about $100,000 in such rebates a year but the most recent check was the biggest single amount he could recall.


"We lock up about 200 people a year," he said.

On March 23, 2000, agents executed a search warrant at 112 East Ave. as a result of a number of controlled buys of drugs from that residence.

"I believe there was a total of 10 search warrants served that day in the case - eight in Baltimore and two here," said Hagerstown Police Chief Art Smith, who was on hand for the check presentation. A number of people were rounded up and charged federally, he said.

One key figure recently received a life sentence without parole in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Smith said Tuesday.

He said that when information reaches the local task force that a major drug operation is in the area, the DEA can be asked to send a special metropolitan enforcement team in to work with the local agents.

"In addition to drugs, there must be evidence of violence and guns," Smith said.

Peter Mitesser, resident DEA agent in Hagerstown, was involved in the case along with then-task force director Rick Johnson, who is now a lieutenant in the Hagerstown Police Department.

All agreed that the cooperative effort leading to receipt of the money was fruitful and all branches of law enforcement worked well toward a common goal.

"These funds are released back to us for use only for law enforcement purposes," Holtzman said.

Salaries and cars cannot be financed with the funds.

The task force has earmarked the money for SWAT body armor, surveillance devices, tasers and other nonlethal deterrents, Holtzman said. Training is also a possibility.

"We are also going to upgrade what we already have and do whatever it takes to stay safe in our work," he said.

Holtzman said the task force is always pleased when it doesn't have to go to local taxpayers for additional money for its needs.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Carol Moller said she thought this money was a great benefit.

"It's nice to know this money is coming back to local police," she said.

Moller and Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner attended the presentation at the DEA/NTF office on Showalter Road.

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