OCEAN CITY — The Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) last week rounded up 26 suspects wanted in connection with a major heroin distribution ring after a Worcester County grand jury issued indictments for 23 of the suspects.
The OCPD Vice-Narcotics Unit for the last six weeks has been conducting an aggressive and extensive undercover illegal drug investigation involving multiple suspects throughout Ocean City called “Operation Smackdown.” The investigation was initiated by the department due to an overwhelming increase in heroin abuse in the resort area during the past year. The investigation resulted in 72 drug buys of heroin, cocaine, illegal prescription medications and marijuana, although the majority of the drug purchases involved heroin.
Last week, OCPD narcotics detectives went before a Worcester County grand jury and were able to obtain indictments on 23 suspects for various drug distribution charges. The bonds on the indicted suspects range from $100,000 to $300,000. Seventeen of the suspects indicted by the grand jury are in custody, while five remained at large as of mid-week.
Last Thursday, OCPD detectives served a search and seizure warrant on another suspect developed during the investigation, identified as Louis Joseph Rychwalski III, 27, of Ocean City. Rychwalski was found to be in possession of four bundles, or 46 bags, of heroin. OCPD narcotics detectives also arrested two additional suspects, identified as Nicholas Alexander Palmisano, 18, of Ocean City, and Edward Allen Paddy, 37, of Ocean City, who were allegedly coming to meet with Rychwalski to buy heroin from him.
Also last Thursday, while police were attempting to locate and arrest suspects indicted by the grand jury, they stopped a vehicle containing one of the suspects, identified as Shelly Anne Brittingham, 41, of Delmar. During the stop, police recovered a total of 63 bags of heroin from the vehicle. Further investigation revealed two additional suspects identified as Quamaine Lamar Huggins, 20, of Delmar, and Stephanie Lynn Orick, 24, of Hebron, who were both charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin. A third suspect, Markel Lamar Barkley, 21, of Quantico, was arrested and charged with possession of heroin.
OCPD arrested additional wanted suspects as a result of the indictments. In all, 26 suspects were arrested, three vehicles were seized and 110 bags of heroin were confiscated, along with five bags of cocaine, five replica handguns and $656 in cash.
Among those indicted by the grand jury as a result of the investigation who have been taken into custody include Bruce Culver Bennett, 31, of Ocean City; Edward Allen Paddy, 37, of Ocean City; Anthony DeLarry Hayward, 31, of Berlin; Thomas Wayne Purnell, Jr., 25, of Berlin; Hunter William Davis, 25, of Ocean City; Michael Helmbright, 41, of Ocean City; Erik Ryan Curry, 24, of Berlin; James Joseph Glenn, Jr., 22, of Berlin; Christopher Shaun Fitzpatrick, 32, of Ocean City; Cody Lee Bradshaw, 26, of Cambridge; Jennifer Lynn Adams, 36, of Ocean City; Shelly Anne Brittingham, 41, of Delmar; Daniel Zellman, 19, of Bishopville; Taylor David Bakke, 22, of Berlin; Tracey Lee Shaffer, 43, of Ocean City; Nicholas Alexander Palmisano, 18, of Ocean City; and Tori Logan DeCelles, 21, of Ocean City.
The remaining five suspects indicted by the grand jury but at large as of mid-week include Jessica Stone Vincent, 29, of Ocean City; Joshua Allen Drennan, 20, of Ocean City; Charles Patrick Andrews, 33, of Ocean City; Sheron Levette Purnell, 40, of Berlin; and Michael Anthony Jones, 42, of Ocean City.
The OCPD conducted the investigation with support from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Enforcement Team, the Maryland State Police and the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office. Anyone with information on the wanted suspects is urged to contact the OCPD at 410 723-6610.