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Middle River man pleads guilty to cocaine distribution charges

BALTIMORE, MD—A Middle River man has pleaded guilty to federal drug charges.

Rondell Ronald Hackett, Jr., 34, of Middle River, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the federal charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine. At the time of his arrest, Hackett was on supervised release for a previous federal drug conviction.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, Acting Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

According to Hackett’s plea agreement, HSI and the Baltimore County Police Department were investigating a drug trafficking organization in Baltimore County. Hackett was identified as a member of the organization, along with Tony Lee Bauer, Aaron Kenith Waller, Gary Gaines-Hidalgo, Adrian Gilberto Herrera-Diaz, and Carlos Alejandro Castro-Castro. In December 2017, Gaines arranged to purchase kilograms of cocaine for $26,500/kilogram from a confidential source (CS), who was working with law enforcement. Thereafter, Gaines arranged to resell the cocaine to Herrera for $28,000/kilogram. Gaines and Castro arranged to have 10 kilograms of cocaine delivered to them in Baltimore.

As detailed in his plea, on January 26, 2018, Gaines and Castro entered the United States from Mexico, then traveled to Baltimore. Gaines and Castro agreed to sell three kilograms of cocaine to Herrera, Bauer, and Waller, with additional sales of kilograms of cocaine to follow the initial purchase. Gaines agreed to meet the CS in the parking lot of a Baltimore hotel, and told Herrera, Bauer, and Waller to also meet him there.

Three cars arrived at the agreed-upon location, one driven by the confidential source. Hackett drove one vehicle with Herrera in the front passenger seat and Gaines in the driver’s side rear passenger seat. Waller drove the third vehicle, with Bauer in the front seat and Castro in the rear passenger seat. Bauer, Herrera, and Gaines exited their vehicles and met with the confidential source. The confidential source then opened the trunk of his car, which contained two kilogram-shaped packages, one of powder cocaine and one kilogram of “sham,” or fake narcotics. Gaines placed his hand in the bag containing the packages and members of HSI and the MSP Tactical Team approached. Hackett and Waller attempted to drive away, but were stopped. In Hackett’s car, a loaded 9mm semi-automatic pistol was recovered from the center console and a loaded .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol was recovered from the rear passenger-side floor of the vehicle. On the rear seat was a vinyl bank bag containing bank-banded cash and a white bag containing cash. A search of Bauer also recovered banded-up amounts of cash. In all, law enforcement recovered $129,583 in cash from the defendants, their vehicles, and their residences.

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As part of his plea agreement, Hackett will be required to forfeit the two loaded firearms and $129,583 in cash recovered after the arrests of Hackett and his co-defendants, and four vehicles, including a Range Rover, a Mercedes Benz, a Cadillac Escalade, and a Cadillac CTS.

Hackett and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Hackett will be sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III has scheduled sentencing for June 26, 2020 at 9:30 a.m.

Gary Gaines-Hidalgo, 28, and Carlos A. Castro-Castro, 36, both of Baja California, Mexico, pleaded guilty to the drug conspiracy and were each sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. Tony Lee Bauer, 37, of Baltimore, previously pleaded guilty to the drug conspiracy and to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and Aaron Kenith Waller, 52, of Crofton, previously pleaded guilty to the drug conspiracy. Both are awaiting sentencing.

The final defendant, Adrian Herrera-Diaz, 29, of Baltimore County, absconded in March 2018 while on home detention with electronic monitoring. Herrera-Diaz was arrested in Georgia in August 2019 and returned to Maryland, where he is scheduled for trial on March 30, 2020.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

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