TOWSON, Md. - Baltimore County Police have arrested and charged a civilian employee with stealing drugs and money from the police evidence room at the Public Safety Building in Towson.
Nicholas Michael Ishmael, 20, of the 7900 block of Westmoreland Avenue, was arrested Tuesday at police headquarters and has been charged with 10 counts, including conspiracy to commit theft from $10,000 to $100,000; theft from $10,000 to $100,000; possession of narcotics; and possession with intent to distribute narcotics.
Ishmael, a cadet, is held at the Baltimore County Detention Center on $650,000 bail.
Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson said at a news briefing Wednesday that he ordered an audit of all 182,400 pieces of evidence in the evidence room as soon as he learned that the evidence room may have been compromised. He also ordered a review of all policies and procedures pertaining to the evidence room.
Johnson said, the investigation shows that the theft of items from the evidence room was linked to Ishmael, who was set to be fired today.
“This is a serious internal issue,” said Johnson in a statement. “To say that I am deeply troubled by this serious breach is an understatement. Our citizens depend on this agency to solve crimes and make sure that criminals are successfully prosecuted, and I want them to know that we have devoted and will continue to devote all possible resources to investigating this situation.
Angela Jarosz is a neighbor of Ishmael in his Parkville home on West Moreland Ave. She is surprised, but police also found evidence in the home.
"The detective called me because I recommended him for the police department," said Jarosz. "The family is lovely. I couldn't choose a better family."
Police said they became aware of a problem in its evidence room in early April, when a Homicide Unit detective tried to retrieve drug evidence for a case that was being tried in Circuit Court. When the drugs could not be found, Johnson’s office was notified, leading to the audit.
The internal investigation led detectives to Ishmael. At that point, the Narcotics Section joined Internal Affairs in a weeks-long criminal investigation that included surveillance of the evidence room and of Ishmael and two family members. Two of Ishmael’s cousins also face drug charges.
The ongoing criminal investigation shows that Ishmael stole cocaine, morphine, Oxycodone and Alprazolam with a street value estimated in the tens of thousands of dollars. Detectives also found $40,000, stolen Tuesday and in Ishmael’s possession when he was arrested. The evidence was stolen from 15 narcotics cases, including one homicide case.
There may be additional charges against Ishmael.
Police do not believe that other cadets or officers were involved with Ishmael in the thefts, nor is there any indication of any technological or procedural failures in the evidence room. “We are confident that responsibility for this breach rests with one civilian employee,” Chief Johnson said.
Police said cadets are civilian employees, ages 18 to 21. They often, but not always, use the position as a path toward a career in policing. The county currently employs about 40 cadets, assigned to entry-level tasks throughout the agency. They are subject to the same background checks as sworn officers, as well initial and random drug testing and a polygraph and a psychological examination. Ishmael’s background check was “uneventful,” Johnson said.
Stay with ABC2 News for additional details.