DRUG DEALER WHO IMPORTED COCAINE HIDDEN IN FLIP FLOPS SENTENCED TO OVER 15 YEARS IN PRISON
Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced Lorenzo Solomon, age 28, of Baltimore, Maryland, today to 188 months in prison, followed by four years of supervised release, for a conspiracy to import cocaine from St. Vincent and distribute it in Maryland. Judge Titus enhanced Solomon’s sentence upon finding that he was a leader of the conspiracy and that he obstructed justice by attempting to intimidate witnesses to prevent them from testifying truthfully against him at trial.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); U.S. Customs and Border Protection Baltimore Port Director Ricardo Scheller; and the agencies participating in the Metropolitan Area Drug Task Force.
According to the evidence presented at Solomon’s four day trial, Solomon served as the leader and organizer of a conspiracy involving Ronnie George and others to import cocaine from St. Vincent and distribute that cocaine in Maryland. Between April and December 2010, Solomon arranged with coconspirators located in St. Vincent to send him packages containing up to a kilogram of cocaine at a time hidden in the soles of flip-flop style slippers, both to his own address and to the address of others. Once Solomon retrieved the packages, he would remove the cocaine and sell the cocaine to others in Maryland who would then distribute it.
To pay for the drugs, witnesses testified that Solomon arranged to have multiple friends and family members send large amounts of cash via Western Union and Moneygram, most frequently in $2,000 increments, which Solomon provided them. Solomon recruited coconspirator Ronnie George to send money on his behalf. In addition to providing him cash to send to St. Vincent, Solomon provided George several hundred dollars in cash or merchandise as compensation for sending money. Solomon suggested that George recruit friends to send money to reduce the chance of the scheme being detected, which he did. Solomon also recruited his sister, girlfriend and others to send money to St. Vincent for him. According to court documents, more than 17 individuals sent a total of $117,270 from the U.S. to St. Vincent between April and November 2010.
According to trial testimony, on November 26, 2010, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers intercepted package of cocaine-filled flip flops intended for Solomon, but addressed to a friend. CBP transferred the package to the Metropolitan Area Drug Task Force to attempt a controlled delivery of the package to the Takoma Park address listed on the package. After unsuccessfully attempting to deliver the package on December 6, 2010, law enforcement left a note on the door advising of the attempted delivery of the package and providing a telephone number to call to arrange delivery. Witness testimony showed that Solomon was advised of the arrival of the package and at Solomon’s direction, delivery of the package was arranged for the next day. After the package was delivered, phone records show that a call was placed to Solomon to let him know of the delivery. A short time later, HSI agents executed a search warrant, recovering the drugs. Ronnie George was also arrested after he arrived to pick up the package for Solomon.
Solomon left the area, eventually traveling to St. Vincent, where, in February 2011, he filed paperwork with the St. Vincent government to form a business, apparently in an effort to create a cover story as to why he had sent so much money to St. Vincent. Solomon returned to the United States in March 2011. On April 6, 2011, George and Solomon were indicted on drug conspiracy charges. George was arrested and pleaded guilty, but Solomon was not located until after George’s sentencing in March 2012.
According to witness testimony, Solomon requested that a witness change her story so as not to implicate Solomon in the drug conspiracy, but the witness refused. Evidence was also presented that during preparation for trial several witnesses contacted law enforcement to advise that they or members of their family were being threatened to prevent the witness’ testimony against Solomon. As a result of these threats, Judge Titus ordered that Solomon be taken into custody on the first day of his trial, March 12, 2013, and he has been detained since that time.
Ronnie George, age 27, of Owings Mills, Maryland pleaded guilty to his participation in the drug conspiracy and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended HSI Baltimore, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the agencies participating in the Metropolitan Area Drug Task Force for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Kristi N. O’Malley and Adam K. Ake, who prosecuted the case.