Philly Cop Accused of Selling Drugs Stolen from Dealers

By Paul Gaita 11/17/17

The officer stands accused of playing a role in a multi-state conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine seized from drug dealers.  

A Philadelphia police officer standing beside his vehicle

A federal investigation into corrupt activities allegedly carried out by members of an elite Baltimore police unit has led to the arrest of a Philadelphia police officer, who is accused of conspiring to sell cocaine and heroin seized in Baltimore.

Eric Troy Snell, 33, is the latest police officer to be indicted in the case, which has resulted in the arrest of eight Baltimore police officers, all members of a squad assigned to track down illegal weapons, who are now accused of federal racketeering charges involving the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The money was seized while searching the homes and property of individuals suspected of drug trafficking.

Snell, a three-year veteran who began his police career in Baltimore, is accused of partnering with a member of the task force and arranging for the sale of drugs; prosecutors also alleged that Snell pressured the Baltimore officer to remain silent about his role in the drug sale, and according to recorded conversations, he appears to have made a veiled threat against the officer's children in an effort to assure his complicity.

According to the federal indictment, Snell met Jemell Rayam, a member of the Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force, while both were attending the police academy in Maryland. Rayam had reportedly been involved in the task force's campaign of stealing money, marijuana and heroin from alleged dealers between 2014 and 2016.

Prosecutors state that Rayam brought Snell into the conspiracy in October 2016, when the Baltimore officer contacted him to arrange for the sale of 80 grams of heroin recovered by the unit.

Snell reportedly set up a meeting between his brother, who is not named in the court filings, and Rayam to coordinate the transfer of the drugs, which Snell's brother then allegedly sold for several thousand dollars. Snell is alleged to have deposited $1,000 in Rayam's bank account (keeping $1,000 for himself) and coordinated several similar sales transactions over the next few months.

Rayam was arrested in June 2017 on racketeering charges, and according to the indictment, called Snell from jail to urge him to keep quiet about his involvement. Snell reportedly told Rayam to "stand tall" during the investigation, and added that he would "keep an eye" on Rayam's children, which the Baltimore officer allegedly perceived as a threat to buy his silence about Snell's involvement.

In October 2017, Rayam pled guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy, and as part of the signed plea agreement—which could grant a reduced prison sentence—mentioned that an unnamed officer from outside the Gun Trace Task Force was involved in the robberies, though it's unclear if Rayam's testimony led directly to Snell's arrest and indictment.

A Philadelphia police spokesperson confirmed that Snell had been suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss following the arrest on November 14. Snell made his initial appearance in federal court that same day.

How Snell's arrest will affect police matters in Philadelphia is unclear, but Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis was forced to disband the Gun Trace Task Force and end plainclothes police efforts in the wake of the scandal. City prosecutors were also faced with dropping criminal charges against nearly 40 people who were involved in arrests by the eight Baltimore officers.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.