Baltimore, Maryland – Joel William Hammond, age 35, of Essex, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 28 grams of cocaine base.
The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Harford County States Attorney Albert P. Peisinger; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office; Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department; and the Harford County Narcotics Task Force comprised of members of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, Aberdeen Police Department, Bel Air Police Department, and Havre de Grace Police Department.
According to his guilty plea, the Harford County Narcotics Task Force undertook an investigation into a drug trafficking organization (DTO) distributing powder and crack cocaine in Harford County, Maryland. On February 4, 2020, the Harford County Narcotics Task Force received authorization from a Circuit Court County Judge to intercept wire and electronic communication of drug trafficking organization members.
Over the course of the investigation, detectives intercepted numerous drug-related communications over social media and phone calls. The intercepted communications identified Hammond as a drug supply source.
On March 7, 2020, task force detectives followed one of the DTO members to Hammond’s Essex, Maryland residence. Upon arrival, detectives observed members of the DTO make contact with Hammond. Following the meeting with Hammond, DTO members returned to Harford County. Detectives then observed one of the members of the DTO meet with several known drug users, following the meeting with Hammond. Detectives believe this to be consistent with this individual obtaining two to three ounces of crack cocaine from Hammond, the source of supply for the DTO.
Hammond met with members and customers of the DTO on at least 10 occasions between March and April 2020. Specifically, on March 31 detectives intercepted a series of communications indicating that a member of the DTO planned to meet Hammond to obtain crack cocaine. Investigators learned that Hammond sold approximately one ounce of crack cocaine to the individual during the meeting.
On April 21, 2020, investigators intercepted a communication that indicated that Hammond and a DTO member were to meet later that day. Detectives observed Hammond and the DTO member make contact at Hammond’s residence. Soon after, the DTO member proceeded to drive back to Harford County. As the DTO member returned to Harford County, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team and Harford Narcotics Task Force searched the member’s vehicle during a traffic stop pursuant to a search warrant.
As a result of the search, law enforcement discovered two plastic bags of a white substance as well as $660 in U.S. currency. One of the bags contained a white rock like substance that was similar to powder cocaine that had been directly cut off a kilogram of pressed cocaine. In total, the substance was 16 grams in weight. The second bag was an off-white rock like substance that law enforcement determined to be crack cocaine. The total weight of the bag was 41 grams. Both substances tested positive for the presence of cocaine. The combined weight of the two bags was 57.9 grams.
On April 22, 2020, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Hammond’s residence and seized a small quantity of crack cocaine.
Hammond agrees it is reasonably foreseeable that the conspiracy involved at least 112 grams but less than 196 grams of crack cocaine.
Hammond and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Hammond will be sentenced to six years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for October 27, 2021 at 11 a.m.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the DEA, the Harford County States Attorney’s office, the Harford County Narcotics Task Force, and the Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner thanked Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Romano who is prosecuting the case.
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