It was about 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, but business was slower than usual at the Bloomingdale's store in Bethesda's fashionable White Flint Mall. Virtually unnoticed among the shoppers, three narcotics detectives walked into the store, headed for the menswear department, and quietly arrested one of the salesmen.
Over the next 24 hours, area police made a total of 13 arrests of the persons they say were part of a local cocaine network supplied by a source in Florida.
Among them were: a real estate agent in Washington's booming market; the owner of David's Beautiful People, a Rockville hairstyling store; a copywriter for Needham Harper Steers Advertising in Falls Church; a language Institute of Washington; the manager of a Georgetown discotheque, the Saint Tropez; a car salesman; the manager of a paper company, and the manager of another clothing store at White Flint Mall.
"They're not your everyday dope dealers," said Sgt. Harold Fremeau of the Montgomery County Police Department. "They're not like your... guy on 14th Street hustling $25 bags of heroin, supplying the addicts.
"They're all making a decent living doing exactly what they want to do."
The 13 people arrested, on charges of dealing in cocaine, allegedly pursued their activities as a part-time hobby, Fremeau said. But, at up to $2,200 an ounce, "they were also making a halfway decent living at it," he added.
The person identified by police as their "main target" refused to discuss the charge yesterday. Her brother, who was also charged, was unavailable for comment. Three others reached declined, directly or through an attorney, to discuss the case.
Much of the time, the alleged members of the drug network pursued their regular jobs, following a workaday routine that belied what police said was a fast-paced high-rolling night life spent partying in strobe-lit discotheques and using the current middle-class drug of choice -- cocainc.
Kerry L. Richer, 30, the Bethesda woman police said was the "main tardescribed herself yesterday as nothing more than "a white child in Maryland with a kid, trying to survive in real estate."
Allen David Cohen, 38, owner of David's Beautiful People in Rockville, sputtered yesterday, "I am just totally aghast at this stupid thing. It's so uncalled for. I work for a living. I don't even have a speeding ticket. It just isn't fair. I don't understand what's going on."
However, a different story is told in affidavits filed by police, who tapped Rickerhs telephone and maintained a surveillance of the places where members of the alleged cocaine network worked.
According to one of these affidavits, Cohen and Ricker had a telephone conversation on Tuesday and discussed whether they could obtain "a couple of ounces" of cocaine, a white powdery drug that produces a brief sensation of euphoria.
On at least four other occasions, the affidavits say, Ricker left her home in an upper-middle-class section of Bethesda and traveled to locations around the metropolitan area to sell cocaine. These four times, police say, the people who bought the drug from her were undercover agents.
Contacted by telephone yesterday afternoon, Ricker declined to discuss her arrest or her background. But neighbors in the area around the 5500 block of Devon Road, where homes sell for $150,000 or more, portrayed her as a pleasant and attractive woman, divorced and attractive woman, divorced and living with her son in her father's home.
She moved into her father's house about a year ago, one neighbor said.
Jill Lawson, who grew up on Devon Road and was visiting her parents' home there yesterday, described Ricker as "just your average nice working girl trying to make a living, I guess."
Michael Bass, Ricker's brother who allegedly obtained the cocaine in Miami, was a hard-working loner when he attended Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda in the late 1960s, Lawson said.
According to police, those arrested here included several who passed their evening hours at the St. Tropez Lounge, a Georgetown discotheque decorated to resemble Rick's cafe in the movie " Casablanca."
Among those arrested on distribution charges was the food and beverage manager of the lounge, Dean Gust Trakas, 23, described by his lawyer yesterday as "only a scared kid." Trakas refused to comment on his arrest yesterday.
Police have been unable to provide a total dollar figure for all cocaine allegedly sold by the accused.
The 13 persons arrested were charged with a variety of offenses, including conspiracy to distribute cocaine, soliciting a controlled dangerous substance and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. There more arrest warrants were still outstanding late yesterday, police said.
In addition to eight persons arrested Tuesday, police identified the five arrested yesterday as Berni Lee Soto, 22, of Wheaton, manager of the Rendezvous clothing store in White Flint; Michael Crandus, 28, of Silver Spring, a salesman; Andrew Karl Stein, 28, of Rockville, a salesman; Mark G. Cherney, 27, of Bethesda, manager of Allied Paper Stock Co., and Steven Craig Smith, 22, of Washington, a new Craig Smith, 228 of Washington, a new car salesman at Rosenthal Chevrolet in Arlington. All 13 arrested so far have been freed on personal bond.
At least one of those arrested has also lost his job. Cohen, the hairstyling entrepreneur who was allegedly part of the cocaine cospiracy, said he fired David Clifford Hageman, who was also arrested. "I let him go," Cohen said. "I don't want to be around any of that stuff."