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Property Co-Owned by Jada Pinkett-Smith Tied to Alleged Baltimore Drug Conspiracy

Frank Klein
Jada Pinkett-Smith co-owns this property at 1538 N. Caroline St.

By Van Smith | Posted 2/9/2005

POSTED FEB. 10 9:40 P.M.

NOTE: An updated version of this story was published in the Feb. 16, 2005 issue

A Feb. 2 indictment of 13 men who federal prosecutors say are involved in a violent Baltimore drug conspiracy called the Rice Organization seeks forfeiture of co-conspirators’ assets—including an East Baltimore property that state records show is co-owned by movie actress Jada Pinkett-Smith. The property, 1538 N. Caroline St., is a three-story corner building on a 1,440-square-foot lot in the heart of Oliver, an East Baltimore neighborhood long ravaged by the illegal-drug economy. The indictment does not mention what role the property played in the alleged conspiracy, only that the government would seek “all of the right, title and interest of Chet Pajardo, the defendant, in the real property and appurtenances” there.

The $22,000 purchase of the house by Pinkett-Smith (listed as “Jada K. Pinkett” in the property records; Pinkett-Smith’s middle name is Keran) and Chet Pajardo, a 36-year-old Owings Mills man named as a defendant in the case, was recorded with Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation on Nov. 17, 1994. At the time, Pinkett-Smith was 23, had already appeared in her feature-film debut, Menace II Society, and was on theater screens co-starring with Keenan Ivory Wayans in A Low Down Dirty Shame. Less than three years later, in 1997, she married actor Will Smith in a ceremony at the Cloisters in Baltimore County.

Ken Hertz, senior partner of the Beverly Hills law firm Goldring, Hertz, and Lichtenstein, who represents Pinkett-Smith, told City Paper Feb. 10 that the actress, who grew up in Baltimore and was living there at the time, met Pajardo about 10 years ago, when Pajardo was working for the United Parcel Service. “He was an acquaintance,” Hertz said, explaining that Pinkett-Smith split the down payment with Pajardo and has been paying her share of the monthly mortgage payments ever since. She’s had no contact with Pajardo in many years, Hertz continued, and she’d forgotten she owned it because her accountant made the monthly payments. Despite the neighborhood’s plight--two blocks away in 2003, for example, all seven members of the Dawson family were burned to death in their home by one of the drug dealers they’d been trying to run off--Hertz said Pinkett’s was “not a dumb investment because it was so little money.”

Pajardo’s defense attorney in the federal conspiracy case, James Gitomer, told City Paper that “I don’t speak to reporters about my clients” when asked if he would be willing to answer some questions about Pajardo.

Members of the Rice Organization, according to the federal indictment, are charged with murders in connection with a drug-trafficking conspiracy that yielded at least $27 million since 1995. Prosecutors allege the group brought at least 3,000 pounds of cocaine and heroin to the streets of Baltimore since that time. Chet Pajardo faces one conspiracy count, though the details of his alleged crimes are not given.

During a Feb. 9 visit to the property co-owned by Pajardo and Pinkett-Smith, it was boarded up but had a fresh coat of paint on the entrance and appeared structurally sound and well-maintained, though its property-tax assessment dropped from $14,100 to $3,000 this year, according to state records. A pay phone was attached to its outside wall. Baltimore City Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals records indicate that Everton Allen applied in April 2003 to use a portion of the building as a grocery story, though City Paper could not locate Allen and the building appears vacant of retail business activity.

An internet search of the property’s address turns up the name of a business, Peaceful Image Inc., located there. State records reveal Pajardo incorporated Peaceful Image in November 1995, a year after he and Pinkett-Smith acquired the building, though information about the nature of the business could not be obtained by press time. The now-defunct company’s principal office was in a building Pajardo owned between 1992 and 2000, on the 1000 block of West 43rd Street in Medfield.

When Pajardo and Pinkett-Smith purchased the North Caroline Street property in 1994, the address given for property-tax mailings was in the 2300 block of North Monroe Street in West Baltimore. The owner, then and now, is listed as Wahseeola C. Pajardo. City Paper’s attempts to reach her at her listed phone number on Feb. 10 were unsuccessful. According to an official at the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council, a woman of the same name was past treasurer of the council, the neighborhood organization for the Mondawmin area.

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