The arrest of two Anne Arundel County residents Thursday on drug charges and the confiscation of an estimated $20 million worth of cocaine -- a cache believed by narcotics agents to be the largest seizure of the drug in Maryland history -- has spurred a probe that will reach into other states and countries, said a spokesman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Anne Arundel County detectives, working with state and federal agents, said they plan to expand their investigation to rein in suppliers and dealers allegedly used by the pair in other states and countries in an attempt to stem the increasing use of the powdery white drug, sometimes called "snow."
Although police detectives declined to speculate on the overall impact Thursday's raid would have on cocaine sales in the area, county police department spokesman V. Richard Molloy said, "For some people, the snow has definitely been taken out of Christmas."
The cedar home on Locust Cove in Pasadena, where police arrested Jody Ann Stephens, 23, and Edward Allen Phillips, 31, during a noon raid Thursday, was eerily quiet Friday. A cold, bitter wind whipped chimes hanging from the corner of an ornate garage, and neighbors questioned about the couple shook their heads in disbelief.
"They were very nice people," said one, who asked not to be identified. "We're sorry they're in trouble."
But the sleek cottage, rebuilt two years ago among 50-year-old summer cottages in this rural community north of Annapolis, also was an alleged major link in a drug ring that served the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area, according to the detectives.
Inside, Molloy said, police found 6 3/4 pounds of cocaine, $54,000 in cash, machine guns and handguns. Police said they also confiscated a 1984 Lincoln, an expensive speed boat and a 1984 Ford truck believed to have been used in the operation.
In conjunction with the couple's arrest, police reported they raided a nearby Pasadena auto shop co-owned by Phillips, a trailer home in Baltimore County and a house just over the Anne Arundel line in Howard County. An estimated $25 million in drugs, property and cash was seized by county, state and federal agents, Molloy said.
"That amount of drugs in this area is overwhelming," said Robert O'Leary, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration's Baltimore office. "None of the investigators can recall this big a seizure in Maryland."
Most of the 38 pounds of cocaine found Thursday was in the walls of the Baltimore County mobile home. More than $431,000 in cash was found in soft drink coolers at the auto shop and at the Howard County address, officials said.
O'Leary said the amount and high purity of the cocaine were akin to seizures made in Miami and other Southern cities, which are frequently the first stop for cocaine shipments on their way from South America. Some of the cocaine seized Thursday was believed to have come directly from South America, he added, and portions had been packaged as if for distribution to dealers for street sales.
"People would have been selling it in the bars of Georgetown and Annapolis and on the street corners of Washington and Baltimore," he said.
The number of cocaine users in the country, estimated at 10 million, has been growing in all social classes, largely because of easy access and decreasing cost, according to a recently released report to the President's Commission on Organized Crime.
Stephens and Phillips were being held without bond on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Additional "significant" arrests are expected at the end of a federal grand jury investigation, O'Leary said.
The investigation will now move beyond Anne Arundel County and Maryland into other states and possibly other countries as a result of the raid and information uncovered during the nine-month investigation, O'Leary said.
Agents have declined to comment on the extent of the network and exactly how the cocaine was delivered to Anne Arundel. The county, which is still largely rural and has more than 400 miles of shoreline along secluded inlets that lead directly into the Chesapeake Bay, has become a popular hideaway for drug dealers who commonly ship their illegal cargo by boat, according to county police.
Anne Arundel County police began their investigation of cocaine trafficking last winter in conjunction with an earlier state police investigation. They had arrested 10 alleged cocaine dealers before Thursday. Police also had previously confiscated eight pounds of cocaine and $250,000 in property.
O'Leary credited the investigation's success to the recently established federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcment Task Force, which allows local detectives to be deputized as federal agents and cross jurisdictional boundaries to follow suspected drug dealers who travel widely.