Man Pleads Guilty In County’s Largest Pot Bust Ever

BERLIN — A New Jersey man arrested last December in what is believed to be the largest marijuana bust in Worcester County history pleaded guilty this week in U.S. District Court to one count of possession with intent to distribute and now faces up for 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million.
Around 4:30 p.m. last Dec. 30, a Maryland State Police trooper in an unmarked car with its blue and red lights flashing was stopped on the shoulder of Route 113 just north of Germantown Rd. in Berlin. A short time later, a Toyota Sienna van driven by Donald Gayle, 54, of New Brunswick, N.J., passed the MSP trooper in the right lane and failed to move to the center lane in violation of the state’s recently passed “move over” law.
The trooper pulled over the vehicle and when he made contact with Gayle, the officer noticed a number of factors indicating criminal activity might be afoot. For example, Gayle’s hands were shaking uncontrollably, according to police reports. The trooper determined the van was rented and it had been due for return the day before. Gayle told the trooper the rental had been extended, but when asked where he was going and where he was coming from, Gayle’s responses were evasive.
A Berlin Police officer in the area stopped to provide back-up while the MSP trooper called for a K-9 unit 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 marijuana. The combined weight of the 15 packages of marijuana totaled over 350 pounds with an estimated street value of at least $400,000.
At a press conference on the day following Gayle’s arrest, local law enforcement agency officials and Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby referred to the incident as the largest marijuana bust in the history of the county. Gayle was charged initially in Worcester County, but because of the size of the marijuana recovered and Gayle’s prior record, the case was later forwarded to U.S. District Court.
Last week, Gayle entered a formal agreement to plead guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison with a minimum mandatory sentence of five years without the possibility of parole. The plea agreement also subjects Gayle to a period of four years of supervised probation upon his release and a fine of up to $5 million. Sentencing has been set for Jan. 31.