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15 indicted in $20M Baltimore-area money laundering scheme

Fifteen men were indicted Thursday in a $20 million money laundering scheme after a series of raids at pawn shops and similar businesses in Baltimore and its suburbs.

Federal prosecutors released few specifics about the charges. According to the indictment, the conspiracy involved laundering more than $20 million in proceeds from the transportation of stolen property. All other court documents in the case were under seal.

The men were arrested Thursday morning and made their initial court appearances in the afternoon. The raids involved more than 100 law enforcement officers from agencies including the FBI, IRS and U.S. Postal Service, and took place at 30 locations, prosecutors said.

The lead defendant in the case, Jerome I. Stahl, 40, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty in 2001 to transportation of stolen property and was sentenced to two years in federal prison. Stahl's attorney in that case, Joshua R. Treem, said he had not heard from his former client.

Several of the defendants have criminal records in state court, including Louis J. Leitch Jr., 61, who's been arrested more than a dozen times and convicted of theft scheme, malicious destruction of property and trespassing. Prosecutors dropped handgun charges against him earlier this month.

Warren A. Brown, Leitch's attorney, said he did not have details of the new charges.

“When you're in the pawn shop business, you're susceptible to these types of charges,” Brown said.

Authorities are seeking the assets of 10 businesses and 58 bank accounts associated with the defendants. Four of the raided pawn shops are clustered within two miles of each other in the working-class Brooklyn and Cherry Hill neighborhoods of south Baltimore.

-- Associated Press

By Washington Post Editors  |  March 26, 2010; 8:31 AM ET
Categories:  Baltimore  
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