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Man Gets Federal Charges for Historic 40-Kilo Coke Bust Next to Kevin Liles Drive

Chris Landers
The corner house on Presstman Street where police made a huge cocaine bust last week.

By Van Smith | Posted 2/23/2009

Trenell David Murphy, a 33-year-old Baltimore man, was charged in federal court on Feb. 20 in connection with what has been touted by the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) as the biggest coke bust in its history. The location of the bust, on the 3000 block of Presstman Street in West Baltimore, is one block west of Kevin Liles Drive, so named in 2005 by then-mayor Martin O'Malley to honor Liles, the executive vice president of Warner Music Group. Liles, who grew up on the 2900 block of Presstman Street, is promoted as a model of success for youngsters growing up on the hard streets of Baltimore.

According to the five-page complaint against Murphy (see document below), the case was made by detectives who had resumed surveillance of Murphy's activities only hours before the bust at 3041 Presstman St. in West Baltimore. Their prior investigation of Murphy, which had led them in late 2007 to suspect that he was involved in city-wide cocaine trafficking, ended shortly after it began when the detectives assigned to the case were abruptly transferred to other duties in East Baltimore.

The detectives returned to the west side in early 2009, and on the evening of Feb. 19, they picked up where they left off by taking a new look at Murphy and the Presstman Street house, the complaint says. What they observed very quickly resulted in a warrant, and at 1:45 a.m. on Feb. 20, they came through Murphy's door.

After taking Murphy into custody, the detectives searched his black Chevrolet truck parked outside the house and in its bed found "approximately forty (40) wrapped kilogram-sized bricks of suspected cocaine," the complaint states, which also describes them as being wrapped in newspaper.

Later that day, BPD Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld staged a press conference to exhibit the seized drugs, which were no longer wrapped in newspaper. He said the drugs comprised the largest cocaine haul in the department's history, with a value of $2 million to $3 million. Though he said one man had been arrested, he did not disclose Murphy's name nor give the location where the drugs were seized due to the fact that the investigation was ongoing. That information was disclosed in the federal charging papers against Murphy, which came publicly available this morning.

On Feb. 22, City Paper visited Murphy's Presstman Street residence, and spoke briefly with a woman who answered the door and stated that "I'm not supposed to talk to you." Directly across the street from the house is a flashing Baltimore Police Department blue-light camera, a device meant to serve as an investigative tool and deterrent to crime.

The house where Murphy was arrested is one block west of Kevin Liles Drive. Liles, whom O'Malley also appointed last year as a trustee of the state's SEED School, a public boarding school, founded the Kevin Liles for a Better Baltimore Foundation in 2003. The nonprofit seeks to help young Baltimoreans "build ambition, self-esteem, and character," according to its mission statement. His book, Make It Happen: The Hip Hop Generation Guide to Success, "provides clear-sighted advice that stresses determination, hard work, and being true to your dream," according to Lile's blog.

Last year, City Paper reported that Liles was co-producer with LaVern Whitt of Women in Power, a documentary-in-progress about the four highest elected officials in Baltimore City. Whitt's business partner in another venture, a seminar program for kids interested in entertainment careers, called Hollywood in a Bottle, was charged in a federal cocaine conspiracy last year. That man, Lawrence Reeves, has since pleaded guilty to dealing more than 330 pounds of cocaine and is awaiting sentencing.

City Paper asked Liles comment about the fact that the BPD's largest-ever coke bust happened one block away from the Baltimore street named after him. The message, left through his New York accountant, was not returned in time for publication.

Baltimore Police Department spokesman Anthony Gugliemi, reached this morning, said "the complaint speaks for itself."

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland has not yet responded to inquiries about the case against Murphy as of press time.

Trenell Murphy Complaint

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Tags: Kevin Liles, cocaine bust, shadow economy

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