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Man pleads guilty in drug case judge calls 'major, major venture'

November 15, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The second of two men charged with possession of more than 100 pounds of marijuana and nearly $300,000 in cash entered guilty pleas to three counts Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.

John Richard Titus, 26, of 6404 Dam 4 Road, Williamsport, pleaded guilty to possession of a large amount of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession with intent to distribute Oxycodone and possession of a firearm in connection with a drug-trafficking crime.

“This was a major, major venture,” Judge Daniel P. Dwyer told Titus prior to sentencing. The marijuana and firearms convictions each carry minimum mandatory sentences of five years, meaning Titus will not be eligible for parole for 10 years.

In exchange for the plea, 26 other drug-trafficking, possession, firearms, theft and related charges were dismissed, said Robert Veil, the supervising attorney for the Washington County Drug Task Force.

On Nov. 3, the other defendant in the case, Sean Clark Andrews, 31, of 1116 Sherman Ave. in Hagerstown, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a large amount of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, according to court records.

Andrews is awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors have recommended a 10-year sentence with him being ineligible for parole the first five years, Veil said.

“It’s my personal opinion the co-defendant is as culpable if not more culpable,” Titus’ attorney, David Harbin, told Dwyer, noting the drugs and money were found in Andrews’ home.

“It looks like (Andrews) got the better deal because he was the first one to turn snitch,” Dwyer said. “That’s the way the system works.”

Titus and Andrews were arrested on Aug. 11 following a two-month investigation, Task Force Agent David Fortson told Dwyer.

The task force was conducting surveillance of Andrews’ house that afternoon when he and Titus left through a back door with bags and backpacks they loaded into a Honda, according to the statement of probable cause.

Agents followed the car to a vacant lot off an alley near the intersection of West Washington Street and Berner Avenue, the charging documents said. As agents approached the car, Titus got out and ran, but was tackled on Summer Street, the documents said.

About 25 pounds of marijuana was found in the car, and Titus was carrying $4,500, Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher McCormack told Judge Dana Moylan Wright at Titus’ August bail hearing in Washington County District Court.

Task force agents, Washington County sheriff’s deputies and Hagerstown police searched the Sherman Avenue house, finding another 93 pounds of marijuana and $282,920, the documents said. Most of the cash was found in a safe, along with a loaded .25-cal. handgun, the documents said.

Although court documents listed his address as Williamsport, Fortson said the marijuana was found in a part of the house occupied by Titus in the months before the search.

Also found in the house were a .40-caliber handgun, two stun guns and a .380-caliber pistol, which had been reported stolen to Hagerstown police on May 13, the documents said.

Dozens of prescription pills were also seized, including Oxycodone, morphine and Suboxone, the documents said.

The cash seized in the case will be forfeited to the county, Veil said. Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said the money will be used primarily for the task force and participating agencies in the case, as well as other law-enforcement initiatives.

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