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Drug dealer who imported cocaine hidden in flip flops sentenced to 15 1/2 years

GREENBELT, Md. – A Baltimore man was sentenced Monday for a conspiracy to import cocaine from St. Vincent, U.S. Virgin Islands, and distribute it in Maryland, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Metropolitan Area Drug Task Force. 

Lorenzo Solomon, 28, was sentenced to 188 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus. Co-conspirator Ronnie George, 27, of Owings Mills, Md., pleaded guilty to his participation in the drug conspiracy and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.

Titus enhanced Solomon’s sentence upon finding that he was a leader of the conspiracy and that he obstructed justice by attempting to intimidate witnesses to prevent them from testifying against him at trial.

Between April and December 2010, Solomon arranged with co-conspirators in St. Vincent to send him packages containing up to a kilogram of cocaine hidden in the soles of flip-flops. Once Solomon retrieved the packages, he would remove the cocaine and sell it to others in Maryland, who would then distribute it.

To pay for the drugs, witnesses testified that Solomon arranged to have friends and family members send large amounts of cash via Western Union and MoneyGram, most frequently in $2,000 increments, which Solomon provided them. Solomon recruited George to send money on his behalf. In addition to providing him cash to send to St. Vincent, Solomon provided George several hundred dollars in cash or merchandise as compensation for sending money. Solomon suggested that George recruit friends to send money to reduce the chance of the scheme being detected, which he did. Solomon also recruited his sister, girlfriend and others to send money to St. Vincent for him. According to court documents, more than 17 individuals sent a total of $117,270 from the United States to St. Vincent between April and November 2010.

On Nov. 26, 2010, CBP officers intercepted a package of cocaine-filled flip flops intended for Solomon, but addressed to a friend. CBP transferred the package to the Metropolitan Area Drug Task Force to attempt a controlled delivery of the package to the Takoma Park address listed on the package. After unsuccessfully attempting to deliver the package Dec. 6, 2010, HSI special agents left a note on the door advising of the attempted delivery of the package and provided a telephone number to call to arrange delivery. Witness testimony showed that Solomon was advised of the arrival of the package and at Solomon’s direction, delivery of the package was arranged the next day. After the package was delivered, phone records show that a call was placed to Solomon to let him know of the delivery. A short time later, HSI special agents executed a search warrant recovering the drugs. HSI special agents arrested George after he arrived to pick up the package for Solomon.

Solomon left the area and later traveled to St. Vincent in February 2011, where he filed paperwork with the local government to form a business in an effort to create a cover story as to why he had sent so much money to St. Vincent. Solomon returned to the United States in March 2011. On April 6, 2011, George and Solomon were indicted on drug conspiracy charges. George was arrested and pleaded guilty, but Solomon was not located until after George’s sentencing March 2012.

According to witness testimony, Solomon requested that a witness change her story so as not to implicate Solomon in the drug conspiracy, but the witness refused. Evidence was also presented that during preparation for trial, several witnesses contacted law enforcement to advise them that they or members of their family were being threatened to prevent the witness’ testimony against Solomon. As a result of these threats, Titus ordered that Solomon be taken into custody on the first day of his trial, March 12, and he has been detained since that time.