First Tipsy Taxi Cases Heading To Court

SNOW HILL — Two months after the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) announced the results of a major, two-year sting operation involving an undercover narcotics officer posing as the owner and operator of a taxi cab, the first of many of the cases hit the Circuit Court this week with varied results based on the severity of the charges.

In February, the OCPD announced a two-year undercover initiative titled Operation Sand Dollar had culminated in grand jury indictments for 34 suspects resulting in 119 total counts including 91 distribution charges and 28 conspiracy to distribute charges. During the operation targeting drug trafficking in the resort area, an undercover narcotics officer posed as a cab driver to infiltrate Ocean City’s shadowy social circles.

During the operation, which included cooperation from allied law enforcement agencies along with the state’s attorney’s office, the officer turned cab driver made some buys and sells out of the taxi, but also established connections that led to further indictments. The operation was borne out of an idea to target known drug trafficking in the downtown area.

After brainstorming, the OCPD came up with the idea of posing and undercover officer as the owner and operator of a legitimate cab company. With the cooperation of the city, the department was able to set up a legitimate can complete with one of Ocean City’s limited taxi medallions operating as the “Tipsy Taxi.”

After conducting Operation Sand Dollar for two years, the gathered information was turned over to the State’s Attorney’s Office and on Jan. 25, a Worcester County grand jury indicted 34 suspects on 119 total counts ranging from distribution of oxycodone and heroin down to simple possession of marijuana.

This week, most of the cases began hitting the Worcester County Circuit Court with many of the defendants having pre-trial motions hearings. Two of the defendants had their cases resolved, showing the disparity in the severity of the charges and their penalties. For example, James Hudson, 49, of Showell, pleaded guilty to distribution of oxycodone and morphine and was sentenced to five years on each charge, which will be served concurrently. Hudson was also fined $1,000.

On the other end of the spectrum, Robert Ray, Sr., 53, of Ocean City, pleaded guilty to distribution of marijuana and was sentenced to one year in jail with all but three months suspended, which was equal to the credit for the time he served awaiting trial. Ray was also fined $500, and placed on probation for two year.

The remainder of the cases are scheduled to be tried over the next few weeks.