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Ex Gun Trace Task Force Cop Gets 10 Years

Momodu Gondo, the former Baltimore police detective, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Tuesday for his role in the Gun Trace Task Force scandal.

Gondo pleaded guilty in the spring of 2018 to crimes ranging from overtime fraud to robbery to possession with intent to distribute heroin as part of a crew of rogue cops operating within the city's police department.

He could have faced a total of 60 years for his crimes, more than any of the other officers caught up in the scandal. But U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake  said she wanted to give him credit for his testimony against his fellow officers as well as a drug crew he had been helping.

And yet she said she also wanted his sentence to be lengthy enough to act as a deterrent to any officer who might be tempted by the same power and greed that led to Gondo’s downfall.

“Robbing people, stealing drugs, distributing drugs, and protecting drugdealers… undermines our community’s faith in our police,” she said.

Gondo admitted to eight robberies between March 2015 and June 2016, the same time that the Department of Justice  was in town investigating the Baltimore Police Department over complaints of  unconstitutional policing tactics. He said he and others on the task force regularly stole drugs and money during arrests, turning over some of what they seized as evidence and pocketing the rest. They also collected thousands of dollars for overtime they never worked.

During the sentencing hearing, Gondo, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, stood and said he was “truly remorseful,” and he apologized to the citizens of Baltimore for his deeds.

Warren Brown, Gondo’s lawyer, said Gondo risked his life by testifying against drug dealers and against fellow officers. But he conceded nothing in Gondo’s past could justify his actions when he was on the police force.

Police have “immense power over individuals,” Brown said, “and we trust them.” Brown also said that the corruption and misconduct wasn’t exclusive to the Gun Trace Task Force. He said much of it was “standard operating procedure” within the department.

Federal investigators caught Gondo on numerous wiretaps giving advice to a drug kingpin about how to evade Baltimore Police and scheming with fellow officers about how to rob citizens of money, drugs, guns, or other property.

Federal prosecutor, Leo Wise, described it as an “upside down world” where police were preying on the drug world.

U.S. Attorney Robert Hur told reporters on the steps of the federal courthouse downtown that the officers in Gondo's unit abused their power over and over again.

"At their very worst,” Hur said, “they used the tools of the trade to prey on the community.”

Hur said they tore at the fabric of the police department at a time when the fragile relationship between Baltimore’s citizens and its cops was already being tested.

Brown said Gondo began to cooperate immediately after he was caught. “[Gondo] gave [the feds] chapter and verse.”

He said cops often find enticing opportunities to steal when they make a drug bust. There are a lot of drugs and a lot of money – and often, no one is watching.   

“That’s a heck of a temptation,” Brown said. “Hopefully they will look and see this and say – 'nah I remember what happened the Gun Trace Task Force guys.'  However, you would have thought that this would not have happened because of the federal government’s oversight of the police department.”

Six of the other officers caught up in the scandal have received sentences ranging from seven to 25 years. Gondo’s longtime partner, Jemell Rayam, is the only member of the task force yet to be sentenced.

Mary Rose is a reporter and senior news producer for 88.1 WYPR FM, a National Public Radio member station in Baltimore. At the local news desk, she assigns stories, organizes special coverage, edits news stories, develops series and reports.
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