Un­der­cover deputy hon­ored for ma­jor heroin bust

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CARL HAMIL­TON

ca­hamil­ton@ce­cil­whig.com

— Two Elk­ton-area men al­legedly re­spon­si­ble for dis­tribut­ing be­tween 10,000 to 20,000 bags of heroin a week into Ce­cil County over a six­month pe­riod are be­hind bars now, po­lice re­ported.

Mak­ing their ar­rests pos­si­ble was an in­tri­cate, pro­tracted in­ves­ti­ga­tion headed by a Ce­cil County Sher­iff’s Of­fice mem­ber who, be­cause of his ef­forts in that case, re­cently re­ceived the Mary­land’s Sher­iff’s As­so­ci­a­tion 2015 Deputy of the Year Award.

But only his fam­ily mem­bers and his col­leagues will ever know that he is the one who re­ceived the award, which was be­stowed upon him in­side an Ocean City ball­room dur­ing the an­nual Joint Mary­land Sher­iff’s and Chief’s pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment con­fer­ence.

That’s be­cause the 2015 Deputy of the Year is an un­der­cover agent as­signed to the multi-depart­ment Ce­cil County Drug Task Force, and his anonymity is cru­cial to his in­ves­tiga­tive work and to his per­sonal safety.

“Our un­der­cover deputies are the un­sung heroes a lot of times. Due to the covert na­ture of their jobs, they don’t get any credit pub­licly for what they do. That anonymity just goes with the ter­ri­tory,” ex­plained Lt. Michael Holmes, a CCSO spokesman. “He is def­i­nitely most de­serv­ing of this Deputy of the Year Award.”

The hon­oree did pose for pic­tures af­ter re­ceiv­ing the award, but, in the snap­shots, a pho­to­shopped smi­ley face con­ceals his face.

OCEAN CITY The covert in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Who the 2015 Deputy of the Year is isn’t as im­por­tant as what he did to merit such recog­ni­tion.

The 2015 Deputy of the Year headed a nine-month-long covert in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter he had iden­ti­fied Elk­ton-area res­i­dents Nikel Shy­heim Hicks, 22, and Louis Al­fred Moore, 46, as sus­pects in the traf­fick­ing of “large amounts of heroin” into Hollingsworth Manor in Elk­ton and Lake­side Mo­bile Home Park near North East, po­lice said.

As it turns out, po­lice added, Hicks and Moore “un­know­ingly were be­ing supplied by the same dealer from Delaware,” a 24-year-old man named Ra­heem Ri­d­ley, who served as a go-be­tween for a ma­jor sup­plier lo­cated some 30 miles north of his Wilm­ing­ton, Del., base.

“In­ves­ti­ga­tors were able to track the heroin sup­ply from Philadel­phia to Delaware to Ce­cil County,” Holmes ex­plained.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volved wire­taps, which, in ad­di­tion to prov­ing help­ful in gath­er­ing ev­i­dence, yielded in­for­ma­tion that en­abled the Deputy of the Year and his fel­low covert agents to pre­vent vi­o­lence that Hicks al­legedly dis­cussed and planned to carry out.

“Dur­ing the wire­tap in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­ves­ti­ga­tors dis­cov­ered that the sus­pects had a propen­sity for vi­o­lence. On two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, law en­force­ment had to in­ter­vene to pre­vent an at­tack on other in­di­vid­u­als,” Holmes said.

The un­der­cover CCDTF su­per­vi­sor told the Ce­cil Whig on Wed­nes­day that agents used a cou­ple of tac­tics to foil al­leged planned at­tacks in Ce­cil County by Hicks with­out dis­turb­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion aimed at build­ing a solid drug case against him and Moore. Ac­tion also was taken if there was a pos­si­bil­ity of at­tacks.

“We flooded Hollingsworth Manor with po­lice cars sev­eral times. If we thought that some­one was go­ing to get hurt, we’d flood the neigh­bor­hood. Or we would just pull him over for some­thing,” the su­per­vi­sor ex­plained.

Rea­sons for vi­o­lence in­cluded rob­bing com­pet­i­tive drug deal­ers and shak­ing down or mak­ing ex­am­ples of peo­ple with out­stand­ing drug debts.

The 2015 Deputy of the Year and his col­leagues were able to pre­vent the planned vi­o­lence dis­cussed dur­ing those elec­tron­i­cally mon­i­tored phone con­ver­sa­tions, he said.

How­ever, the su­per­vi­sor added, some things were not dis­cussed by the sus­pects be­fore they were car­ried out.

At about 1:45 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2015, Hicks, then 21, al­legedly shot and killed a ri­val, Gre­gory Sam­mons-Bur­ris, 24, in a grassy patch be­tween two rows of town­houses in the 100 block of Goose­neck Court in Elk­ton, which is ad­ja­cent to Hollingsworth Manor.

“There was no con­ver­sa­tion lead­ing up to that homi­cide. We did not know about that,” the su­per­vi­sor said.

Be­cause Hicks had been the fo­cus of the covert in­ves­ti­ga­tion, along with Moore, and be­cause he re­mained so af­ter the homi­cide, the 2015 Deputy of the Year and his fel­low un­der­cover agents were able to col­lect in­for­ma­tion that helped in the mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to Holmes.

“Our deputy’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion played a ma­jor role in lo­cat­ing the mur­der weapon and as­sist­ing the Elk­ton Po­lice Depart­ment (homi­cide de­tec­tives),” Holmes said.

Hicks, whom U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice agents cap­tured in Philadel­phia a few days af­ter the mur­der, is charged with first-de­gree mur­der and five other of­fenses, ac­cord­ing to Ce­cil County Cir­cuit Court records. His mur­der trial is sched­uled to start Oct. 24 and is ex­pected to last five days.

Drug charges filed

As for the re­sults of the pro­tracted covert in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Hicks also is charged in Ce­cil County with distri­bu­tion of heroin and two re­lated of­fenses, ac­cord­ing to court records, which list his of­fense dates as Sept. 29, 2015, two weeks be­fore the mur­der, and Oct. 11, a day be­fore the homi­cide. Hicks’ drug trial is set for Feb. 7.

Moore also is charged with distri­bu­tion of heroin in Ce­cil County, as well as six other counts, and he, too, is await­ing a Feb. 7 trial, court records show. His 2015 of­fense dates are listed in court doc­u­ments as March 10, Aug. 18, Sept. 29 and Oct. 14, two days af­ter the mur­der.

In ad­di­tion, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion led to a fed­eral in­dict­ment against Ri­d­ley, the Wilm­ing­ton res­i­dent ac­cused of sup­ply­ing the heroin to Hicks and Moore af­ter he re­ceived it from the Philadel­phia sup­plier, the CCDTF su­per­vi­sor said.

As for the Philadel­phia sup­plier, he added, de­tec­tives in that city are con­tin­u­ing that in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The CCDTF in­ves­ti­ga­tion headed by the 2015 Deputy of the Year ended af­ter the de­ci­sion for of­fi­cers to, one last time, in­ter­vene to pre­vent in­jury or death, po­lice re­ported.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cluded when it be­came ap­par­ent that the Delaware sup­plier had ob­tained a firearm and was go­ing to com­mit a crime of vi­o­lence in the City of Wilm­ing­ton. The sus­pect was ar­rested with a loaded hand­gun with a 30-round mag­a­zine in his pos­ses­sion. A search war­rant was con­ducted on the sus­pect’s res­i­dence and a large amount of heroin, fen­tanyl, and U.S. cur­rency were seized,” Holmes ex­plained.

The 2015 Deputy of the Year co­or­di­nated the CCDTF un­der­cover ef­forts with covert agents in Wilm­ing­ton and Philadel­phia, ac­cord­ing to Holmes.

CCSO Chief Deputy Ger­ald K. Wid­does, who had worked sev­eral years in an un­der­cover ca­pac­ity, em­pha­sized that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion led by the 2015 Deputy of the Year had a pos­i­tive, far-reach­ing im­pact.

“It’s truly my be­lief that based on com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­ter­cepted and acted upon by law en­force­ment, this in­vesti- gation pre­vented not only as­saults but pos­si­bly homi­cides. It also led to the re­cov­ery of a hand­gun in a lo­cal (Elk­ton) homi­cide. That be­ing said, it also took large-scale heroin deal­ers off the streets in a tris­tate area,” Wid­does said.

He also noted that work­ing in an un­der­cover ca­pac­ity can take its toll on a deputy’s pri­vate life.

“Our un­der­cover deputies fre­quently work in the shad­ows and far too of­ten go un­rec­og­nized. Their lives fun­da­men­tally change, of­ten at the ex­pense of fam­ily and friends. I’m very proud of this deputy and rec­og­nize his ded­i­ca­tion in bat­tling this heroin is­sue,” Wid­does said.

Sher­iff Scott Adams said he was hon­ored to be there when the covert deputy re­ceived his award.

“Al­though this deputy works in an un­der­cover ca­pac­ity and can­not be iden­ti­fied, his ef­forts did not go un­no­ticed. It was a proud mo­ment for me and for the Ce­cil County Sher­iff’s Of­fice,” Adams said.

Po­lice of­fi­cials count thwart­ing the weekly traf­fick­ing of 10,000 to 20,000 bags of heroin into Ce­cil County as win­ning a bat­tle, ac­cord­ing to Holmes. (The CCDTF su­per­vi­sor noted that a “small amount” of that heroin was then redi­rected into Kent County.)

Holmes quickly noted, how­ever, that the drug war still has con­tin­ued here since the ar­rests of Hicks and Moore — as ev­i­denced by the nu­mer­ous peo­ple who have been ar­rested and charged with pos­ses­sion of heroin with in­tent to dis­trib­ute.

“I don’t want to down­play it be­cause 10,000 to 20,000 bag­gies (a week) is a lot. But when you break it down, we know that a heavy heroin ad­dict can go through 20 to 30 bags a day, and there are a lot of heroin ad­dicts out there,” Holmes said, adding, “We bat­tle heroin ad­dic­tion in this county on a daily ba­sis.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CE­CIL COUNTY SHER­IFF’S OF­FICE

Ce­cil County Sher­iff Scott Adams (left) and CCSO Chief Deputy Ger­ald Wid­does stand with a CCSO mem­ber who re­cently won the 2015 Deputy of the Year Award. His face is con­cealed by the pho­to­shopped Smi­ley Face be­cause he is an un­der­cover drug agent.

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