Law enforcement authorities have thrown a wide net in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill neighborhood. And, this week, they netted another gang, bringing to four the number of criminal enterprises prosecuted in that area.

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Since 2013, federal prosecutors have convicted at least 35 members of three other drug-dealing organizations that operated in Cherry Hill: “Up da Hill,” “Little Spelman” and “Coppin Court.” And, on Sept. 9, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging 21 men for being members of the “Hillside” enterprise, a drug ring that operated for 14 years in Cherry Hill. Eleven of those defendants face enhanced charges for alleged murder.

The indictment alleges that as part of the drug distribution conspiracy, Hillside members routinely committed acts of violence and other crimes to further and protect the aims of their enterprise.

“The most important thing law enforcement officers can do to stop violence is to make clear that killers will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, who serves in the District of Maryland, in a statement. “Although the only crime charged in this indictment is a drug conspiracy, the allegations include 13 murders and 21 non-fatal shootings. Conspiracy cases are a valuable tool to put violent gangs out of business.”

Since at least early 2002, the Hillside enterprise has distributed powder and crack cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and marijuana in Cherry Hill, primarily in the Cherry Hill Shopping Center, and in other sites throughout west and southwest Baltimore, according to the indictment.

Hillside’s drugs were prepared and packaged at residences in and around Cherry Hill, and were distinguished by colored topped vials or food coloring.

The proceeds of the narcotics sales were used to purchase firearms and otherwise enrich the members and shore up the enterprise.

The indictment further alleges that members of the Hillside Enterprise committed armed home and street robberies, and other acts of violence – including beatings, murders and attempted murders – to intimidate and punish rivals and Hillside members deemed disloyal.

Thirteen defendants are currently in custody and law enforcement is searching for the remaining eight.

All 21 defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO