Maryland state police

Two Bedford residents were charged as co-conspirators in connection with a drug trafficking organization comprised of Blood street gang members in western Maryland, according to Maryland State Police.

The investigation centered on the arrest of Juerbar Otis Thomas, 43, of Cumberland, Maryland, who was was indicted by an Allegany County grand jury on 64 drug-related offenses relating to the distribution of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine, including a charge of being a drug kingpin.

State police said 20 other co-conspirators were charged as a result of the investigation, including Sandra D. Rust and David D. Howe Jr. of Bedford. Both had six counts of drug-related offenses charged against them, according to a news release.

The drug bust called “Operation Blood Clot” started in July 2019 by the Maryland State Police Heroin Investigative Unit, in conjunction with the Allegany County Narcotics Task Force and the Allegany County State’s Attorney’s Office. The investigation targeted a drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing large quantities of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine from New York to Allegany County, Maryland.

Investigators in May served search warrants in Cumberland, Frostburg, Maryland, and Mineral County, West Virginia.

Large amounts of suspected fentanyl, heroin, crack cocaine, drug-related cash and firearms were recovered by police. The drugs included more than 1,200 grams of fentanyl with a street value of more than $192,000, more than 99 grams of heroin with a street value of nearly $16,000, and more than 475 grams of cocaine with a street value of more than $47,500.

Thomas and his associates also were discovered to be manufacturing fentanyl and heroin pills that mimicked prescription opioid pills, according to state police. Thomas was arrested May 25 and has been held without bond in the Allegany County Detention Center.

Police did not list the specific charges filed against Rust or Howe in a news release. Seventeen of the 20 co-conspirators were served with their grand jury indictments on Tuesday.

State police in Maryland said there were 119 nonfatal and 24 fatal overdoses reported in Allegany County in 2019, while 18 fatal overdoses have been reported so far in 2020.

To combat the increase in drug-related overdose deaths, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order creating the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force. The task force led to the creation of the Maryland State Police Heroin Investigation Unit, a multi-jurisdictional unit focused on mid-to-upper-level heroin and opioid distribution operations.

Contact Will DeShong at wdeshong@bedfordgazette.com; 623-1151, ext. 150.

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