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Mobtown Beat

Armed Drug Dealer for Steele?

GOP donor Wade Coats accused in hotel drug case

Police Booking Photo
Wade Coats

By Van Smith | Posted 6/17/2009

Wade Coats, a 44-year-old whose East Baltimore business, Keeping It in the Community, Inc., sells phones and pagers, is a Republican Party campaign donor who gave $500 to Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Michael Steele's failed 2006 U.S. Senate campaign and another $800 to the RNC. On April 28, Coats took out a room in the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor hotel. What remains to be seen is whether his hotel stay involved high-dollar drug dealing, as new federal charges in Maryland allege.

The drug charges against Coats and two others--fellow Baltimorean Ronald Brown and Jose Cavazos of Midlothian, Texas--show that the case developed quickly on April 28, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, aided by a confidential source, observed Brown and Coats engaged in suspected drug-dealing activities near Mo's Seafood House in Little Italy. Agents followed the two men when they split up.

Coats had checked into Room 943 at the nearby Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor hotel, court documents say. When he re-emerged from the hotel later, agents followed him to his phone-and-pager business, just east of Johns Hopkins Hospital. Coats was arrested there, Cavazos was arrested in Coats' Marriott hotel room, and Brown was picked up at his dwelling, near Route 40 West, just outside the city line.

On Coats when he was arrested were a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun (loaded with nine rounds), a handheld radio-frequency scanner monitoring Baltimore Police Department and DEA channels, and $7,000 in cash. At his business, agents found another $16,000 in cash, paraphernalia for counting and bundling cash, and a magazine for a gun. In Coats' Marriott hotel room, approximately $275,000 in cash, an electronic money counter, and heat-sealing equipment for packaging cash was found. From Cavazos' Dodge Caravan, parked in the Marriott garage, agents recovered approximately $335,000 in cash from an orange suitcase. At Brown's home, they came across about 374 grams of powder cocaine; an undisclosed amount of heroin (some in a bag and the rest on a pane of glass); and equipment and material for packaging drugs for street-level sales.

After their arrest on April 28, the three were indicted in state court in May, and the case was bumped to the federal level in early June.

Coats' background in Maryland's courts gives no indication he would be involved in the drug game. The only prior criminal charges filed against him were for cloning cell phones and for a theft scheme, both a decade ago, and for assault in 1994; no convictions resulted. Otherwise, Coats has had financial problems, including two bankruptcies--one of which is still pending, and was active in 2006 and 2007, when he came up with the $500 for Steele and another $800 for the RNC. Katie Wright, spokeswoman for the RNC, declined to comment on Coats' donations.

This is not the first time a Baltimore shadow-economy figure has been in the picture of the GOP's political funding. Ex-con bailbondsman Milton Tillman Jr., who was labeled a "violent drug dealer" by since-dead federal prosecutor Jonathan Luna ("Grave Accusations," Mobtown Beat, April 23, 2008), was shown in last year's City Paper analysis ("Friends of Milton Tillman," Mobtown Beat, Aug. 27, 2008) to be a donor mostly to Democrats--though $500 of Tillman's money went in 2002 to the U.S. Congressman Robert Ehrlich's successful gubernatorial bid. In 2005, the sprawling Rice Organization drug-conspiracy case in federal court involved a restaurant, Downtown Southern Blues, where in 2002 Democrats for Ehrlich spent $4,000 to throw a victory celebration for Steele, who had just clinched the lieutenant-governor slot ("Wired," Mobtown Beat, March 2, 2005). The restaurant's landlord, Kenneth Antonio Jackson, an ex-con strip-club owner who recently started making documentaries about famous Baltimore drug dealers ("Last Word," Feature, April 29, 2009), has mostly given to Democrats over the years, though in 2003 he gave $500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

It is also not the first time this year the feds pursued a drug case involving the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor hotel. In March, a heroin-smuggling conspiracy involving two men of Ghanian descent, one from New Jersey and the other from Baltimore, was uncovered in one of the hotel's rooms, where cleaning staff had found a large quantity of heroin ("Room Service," Mobtown Beat, March 25, 2009). That case is scheduled for trial in September.

As of press time, Coats had not yet had his first appearance in federal court. As he was being arrested, the charging document recounts, he denied having been in the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor hotel that night, telling officers, "there's your story, there's my story, and there's the truth. Let's see what the judge decides."

Wade Coats Complaint

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Tags: rnc, drugs, shadow economy

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