Clifford B. Bailey, portrayed by authorities as an "enforcer" for a multimillion-dollar heroin ring, a participant in a celebrated escape from the D.C. Jail and one of the U.S. marshals' 15 most-wanted men since he fled from the Baltimore City Jail a year ago, is in custody after being arrested in Northwest Washington, officials said yesterday.

Herbert M. Rutherford, U.S. marshal for the District, said that Bailey, 43, who had escaped from jail in Baltimore last Nov. 7, was arrested about 10 p.m. Wednesday inside a home on Oglethorpe Street NW.

Rutherford said the house had been put under surveillance a day earlier when Bailey was spotted leaving a cab and going inside. He declined to release the address of the house.

Wednesday night, the house was surrounded by nine deputy U.S. marshals and two units from the D.C. Police Emergency Response Team, Rutherford said.

One marshal posed as the cab driver from the night before and knocked at the door, telling a woman who answered that some money had been left in the cab the previous evening, Rutherford said. He said the marshal "had the sense someone else was there," and three marshals, service revolvers drawn, stormed into the house and arrested Bailey without incident.

Bailey was presented yesterday before Magistrate Patrick Attridge in U.S. District Court and ordered held without bond on a charge of escape, pending a removal hearing Nov. 1, when Maryland authorities are expected to ask for his extradition.

Bailey was one of 14 persons indicted by a federal grand jury in Baltimore in April 1983 on charges of operating an extensive heroin ring in the Washington area that purchased the drug directly from Mafia suppliers in New York City and other parts of the country.

When the indictments were announced, D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. called it the "biggest success by law enforcement agencies in this area in the last decade."

Bailey, apparently tipped off about the indictment, fled and was not captured until January 1984. At that time his brother, Bernard Bailey, was arrested for possessing narcotics while on parole and told federal agents that Clifford Bailey was hiding in Suitland, according to Richard Catalano of the U.S. Marshal Service's Baltimore office.

Bernard Bailey committed suicide about two months later, Catalano said.

At the time of that 1984 arrest, Clifford Bailey was wearing a bulletproof vest and was armed with a .357 magnum loaded with armor-piecing bullets. He pleaded guilty on May 18, 1984, to conspiracy to distribute heroin and was sent to a federal prison in Lompoc, Calif., to serve a 38-year sentence, Catalano said.

Court documents in the case identify Bailey as "one of two principal enforcers" in the Isaac J. Tindle organization, a major heroin distribution network that attempted to disguise drug profits as income from video arcade games. Records seized in Tindle's home described hundreds of thousands of dollars in narcotics transactions, according to court documents.

In early November 1984, Bailey was returned to Baltimore from the California federal prison to testify on behalf of one of the co-conspirators in the same case, Catalano said. On Nov. 7 he escaped from the jail, "and the circumstances surrounding his escape are still under investigation," Catalano said.

Earlier, Bailey had been convicted of a 1973 bank robbery and sent to a federal prison. But in August 1976 he was held temporarily at the D.C. Jail, where he staged an infamous escape with three other men.

The men managed their escape from a maximum-security cell block by entering a cell in which three bars had been removed and lowering themselves to the ground with bedsheets.

When the four were apprehended, they put forward a novel defense, claiming that they had escaped from the jail because of inhumane living conditions there, including frequent fires, poor ventilation, and threats and beatings by corrections officers. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in January 1980 ruled 6 to 2 against them.

After his escape from Baltimore last year, Bailey traveled to Florida in an effort to elude U.S. marshals and was arrested three times by police in Miami, according to Catalano, for loitering, shoplifting, burglary and possession of cocaine.

However, Catalano said, Bailey used a false name and police did not realize who he was until two days after they let him out of jail on April 6. After that, Catalano said, friends drove Bailey to Washington, "where he lived with a horseshoe in his back pocket that got rusty Wednesday."