OCEAN CITY – To the knowledge of the Maryland State Police at the Berlin barrack, the largest marijuana bust in the history of Worcester County took place last month after a driver did not follow one of Maryland’s newest traffic laws.
Around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 30, a Maryland State Police (MSP) trooper in an unmarked car with its red and blue lights flashing was stopped on the shoulder along Route 113 just north of Germantown Rd. in Berlin. A Toyota Sienna van, driven by Donald P. Gayle, 54, of New Brunswick, N.J., passed the trooper’s unmarked vehicle in the right lane, but failed to move over to the available lane in violation of the state’s “move over law.”
The trooper pulled the vehicle over and when contact was made with Gayle, the officer noticed a number of factors indicating criminal activity. A Berlin police officer in the area stopped to provide backup, while the MSP trooper called for a K-9 team to respond. The K-9 gave a positive alert for the presence of drugs.
A probable cause search of the van revealed five large nylon bags, each containing three large cellophane-wrapped packages of suspected marijuana. The combined weight of the 15 packages totaled over 350 pounds, with an estimated street value of at least $400,000.
Gayle was arrested and taken into custody without incident and was being held on a $650,000 bond. He will be charged with a number if violations and will face up to 25 years of jail time and/or up to $100,000 fine but because of Gayle’s prior criminal history as a subsequent offender penalties could be doubled resulting in a 50-year sentence.
On Friday, Commander Lt. E.W Starner said he MSP Berlin barrack has reached out to allied partners of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office to work with throughout the investigation.
Starner, who was accompanied by Capt. Ronald Lewis and State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby, whose office would prosecute the case, were tight lipped over the details of the traffic stop, such as where the driver was coming from and destined to or why a K-9 Unit was called, until the investigation is completed and prosecution is made.
“Those are going to be evidentiary issues that we wouldn’t discuss at this time,” Starner said. “Our officers are trained to conduct traffic stops with their safety and others safety in mind, and also to investigate that stop to the fullest.”
Oglesby said drug distribution is most vulnerable during transportation.
“For proactive law enforcement, like the troopers of this barrack and the other members of the allied agencies, it is crucial to obstruct drug distribution,” he said. “When we can get them from A to B in the middle, we are going to have a huge impact.”
The Dispatch asked if the capture of over 350 pounds of marijuana on top of two recent seizures of large amounts of heroin threw up a red flag for local law enforcement agencies for such abundant amounts of drugs being passed through the area. Oglesby first pointed out that the heroin busts were identified as local incidents and are not unexpected.
“It has always been understood and acknowledged that Route 113, Route 13, Route 50, are corridors for transportation of drugs, especially the north and southbound routes … so seizing these drugs doesn’t surprise us,” he said. “What you can take from this is the trooper from the Berlin barrack and other law enforcement in this area are making stops on people traveling north and southbound, and if the opportunity presents itself to investigate and recover drugs we will certainly do so, so for people traveling north and south on 113 should choose an alternate route.”
Starner said the marijuana will be kept as evidence until prosecution and then destroyed.