Baltimore has been known for decades as a violent drug haven, yet the city has seen very few high-level drug dealers convicted or even prosecuted, even as low-level "corner boys" fill the jails and the morgue. Unlike most major cities, Baltimore has generally declined even to acknowledge the existence of the wealthy, privileged, organized criminals in its midst.
Early in 2008 City Paper decided to investigate the city's "shadow economy," where drug dealers meet money launderers and develop the political connections they need to stay in business. We focused on Milton Tillman, Jr., publicly regarded as a successful and respected bail-bonds impresario.
Digging into Tillman's business and financial relationships, we discovered a mortgage fraudster/drug-money launderer on the lam, a local sports hero with deep ties to the drug game, and a TV-star/ex-gangster with a $90,000 stashed above his bathroom ceiling. We also unearthed a felonious preacher-bounty-hunter who bribed court officials and sprang thugs, a fistful of city and state politicians with cordial ties to the criminal underworld, and a remarkable in-court accusation by a federal prosecutor whose subsequent violent death has never been credibly explained.
On March 17, 2010, a federal grand jury indictment was unsealed, charging Tillman and his son, Milton "Moe" Tillman Jr., with crimes involving their bailbonds operations and Tillman's no-show job on the Baltimore waterfront.
The investigation is ongoing, and has broadened to include stories about a variety of Baltimore-area crime figures seeking to make their illegal endeavors appear legitimate.