Undercover deputy honored for major heroin bust
— 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.”
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.