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Maryland Police Cadet Allegedly Stole Drug Evidence

A Baltimore County Police cadet stole drugs with a street value of more than $100,000 from the evidence vault at the department's headquarters, which police believe he intended to sell, according to charging documents.

Nicholas Michael Ishmael, 20, stole items from at least 15 cases, including Oxycodone tablets, cocaine and other drugs worth more than $125,000 in street value since August, according to documents filed in district court.

Ishmael was charged Tuesday with nine counts of theft and drug-related charges, as he left after his shift at police headquarters, the document said.

A police spokesman said Chief James W. Johnson will hold a news conference at the Public Safety Building at 2 p.m.

The investigation into Ishmael could affect pending and concluded cases as attorneys could lobby for appeals in past cases or for charges be thrown out over concerns over whether evidence was compromised.

"It's very early in the investigation," said Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, whose his office is working to review each case.

"We are appropriately concerned," he said, adding that he is unaware of cases where the outcome might be directly affected by the charges.

But the charges against Ishmael "would affect any case whether its gone forward or looking back," he said.

One is a pending homicide case scheduled for trial next month, he said.

Shellenberger said this was the first case in the region that he could recall where evidence was taken by law enforcement.

However, the problem of evidence theft -- especially of drugs and cash -- is one faced by many departments across the country.

Earlier this year, a chemist in a Florida crime lab was charged with selling drugs taken from evidence and replacing it with over-the-counter medicine, according to news reports.

Ishmael did not have an attorney listed in online court records. He does not appear to have a prior adult criminal record in Maryland, records show.

Ishmael's grandmother, Rosie Rambissoon said Wednesday he did not return home from work Tuesday. She said she and her husband were in town from Trinidad visiting. Ishmael and his two brothers grew up in Parkville, she said.

"We're upset," she said. "Nicholas was such a nice boy. He was never in any trouble. I don't know how he found himself in this trouble."

The investigation began last month when the commander of the department's Evidence Management Unit found Oxycodone was missing from a case. Detectives later found that evidence from nine cases were unaccounted for. The missing evidence was composed of Oxycodone packaged in "K-Packs," which is a plastic envelope.

On May 2, investigators with Internal Affairs and Vice Narcotics completed a full audit of all pharmaceuticals in the evidence vault and found four additional cases where Oxycodone evidence was missing.

Two weeks later, two more cases went missing following the audit, the document said. Detectives identified Ishmael but the document does not say how they determined he was responsible for the thefts.

Officers searched Ishmael's Parkville home and his Nissan on Tuesday. As Ishmael left work the same day, he was stopped by detectives and searched, and they found a sealed K-Pack with $40,000 in cash on a drawstring backpack. The investigators also found a fake North Carolina driver's license in a wallet he was carrying.

In his car, police found an "empty urine test bottle to defeat a 'dirty urine' [test]," as well as papers, a prescription bottle of Morphine, and tablets of Oxycodone and Suboxone, and a "ziplock bag containing a white powder substance."

At his Westmoreland Avenue home where he lived with his mother, officers found numerous items from the evidence room, the document said, including evidence K-Packs, evidence room inventory papers and disposal forms loose in his room, and various drugs.

Copyright 2014 - The Baltimore Sun

McClatchy-Tribune News Service