Leader of Baltimore drug organization sentenced to 10 years in prison

The leader of a Baltimore drug trafficking organization was sentenced to a decade in prison on drug-related charges, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland said in a news release Monday.

Ernest Lee Bailey, 51, of Owings Mills, pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, according to the release.

Bailey led a drug trafficking organization from November 2019 to November 2020, responsible for supplying kilograms of controlled substances including heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and ecstasy in and around Baltimore, according to his plea agreement.

Between June and November 2020, law enforcement intercepted communications from multiple cellphones used by Bailey in connection with drug activities, according to his plea agreement. The calls revealed Bailey got heroin from a Mexican drug trafficking organization.

Law enforcement also learned that Bailey received fentanyl from the Mexican organization. In a text message, Bailey told the manager of the Mexican traffickers that heroin was not selling fast enough and that he needed to supplement it with fentanyl, according this plea agreement,

Bailey also told authorities that he obtained cocaine from a source in Philadelphia, according to his plea agreement. He was connected to this source through a Baltimore-area cocaine wholesaler. Bailey then recruited another person to serve as a courier to transport cocaine from Philadelphia to Baltimore on behalf of Bailey.

Law enforcement reported at least five occasions where Bailey and the wholesaler bought kilograms of cocaine from the Philadelphia source and directed the courier to bring the cocaine back to Baltimore, according to his plea agreement.

The first time law enforcement reported this was on May 26, 2020, when Bailey and the wholesaler drove to Philadelphia with the courier, who was in a separate car. The two cars arrived back in Baltimore right after midnight the next day, and parked alongside each other at a gas station in Owings Mills, according to his plea agreement.

Law enforcement saw Bailey get something from the car, and less than an hour later, a surveillance camera showed him bringing in a light brown box into an apartment on Heath Street in Baltimore, according to his plea agreement. Bailey rented this apartment to store and process drugs for wholesale drug redistribution.

Bailey also admitted to using money from bank fraud to pay the rent on the apartment. He used pandemic-related unemployment insurance benefits that were fraudulently issued to an inmate on a bank debit card in July 2020, according to his plea agreement. Bailey contacted the bank posing as the inmate and requested that the PIN on the card be reset. Bailey confirmed the card number and the card balance, which was $19,230.45, according to his plea agreement.

When Bailey’s home was searched on Nov. 16, 2020, law enforcement found 13 cellphones, men’s designer watches and other jewelry, and $8,980 in cash, according to his plea agreement. Bailey later admitted that the cash and jewelry came from his drug money.

At the Heath Street apartment, law enforcement found drug paraphernalia, including digital scales, drug cutting agents, hydraulic presses and controlled substances, including more than 215 grams of a mixture of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine and tramadol; and 301 grams of eutylone, a controlled substance analogous to ecstasy, according to his plea agreement.

Bailey was the last defendant in this 13-defendant case to be sentenced, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland said.

Bailey’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.

Eleven co-defendants pleaded guilty to their roles in the drug organization and were sentenced to between one to six years in federal prison and one defendant passed away after being indicted, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland said.