Crime

ELKTON — A surveillance operation led to a traffic stop in which investigators confiscated more than one ounce of suspect heroin mixed with fentanyl – all contained in 89 baggies bearing a street-brand stamp referencing the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, according to Cecil County District Court records.

Investigators arrested and charged one suspect, Donald Roy Birch, Jr., 38, of the 800 block of Principio Road near Port Deposit, police reported.

Cecil County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Joseph Costa and Dfc. Brian Bravo stopped the suspect 2015 Chrysler shortly before 6 p.m. on Monday on southbound Route 279 (Elkton Road), near Airport Road, after obtaining a search warrant one week earlier amid a month-long investigation “pertaining to drug trafficking and the distribution of heroin in Cecil County,” court records show.

“During the course of this investigation, it was learned that Birch Jr. would travel to Philadelphia in a black color 2015 Chrysler . . . The trips to Philadelphia were for short periods of time and return to Cecil County, which is consistent with a ‘re-up’ or replenishment of (drug) supply,” CCSO Det. A. Donald explains in his written statement of probable cause contained in court records.

On Monday, while conducting surveillance, investigators observed the Chrysler in question traveling southbound on Interstate 95 near the Delaware travel plaza, police said. The traffic stop was made after the Chrysler exited southbound I-95 and ultimately headed south on Route 279 near Elkton, police added.

Deputies detained Birch, who occupied the front passenger’s seat, and a 41-year-old man who had been driving the car, according to court records, which indicate that investigators did not charge the driver.

Investigators drove the suspect Chrysler from the traffic stop scene to CCSO’s headquarters near Elkton, where a court-approved search of the vehicle was conducted, court records show. Deputies also searched Birch and the driver after detaining them, according to court records.

While searching Birch, investigators found 60 blue wax paper baggies containing slightly less than 20 grams of suspect heroin/fentanyl and bearing a “Kobe 24” street brand stamp, court records allege.

(Bryant, who wore “24” on his jersey in 639 games during the latter part of his 20-year career as a shooting guard with the Los Angeles Lakers, was killed at age 41, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, on Feb. 7 in a helicopter crash in California.)

Investigators also found 29 more baggies holding slightly more than 15 grams of suspect heroin/fentanyl on the front passenger’s seat of the Chrysler, police said, adding that the “Kobe 24” street-brand name had been stamped on those baggies, too, police said.

In addition, according to charging documents, investigators found a ziplock baggie containing four grams of suspect methamphetamine inside the car’s center console.

There are 28 grams in one ounce. Investigators found and confiscated a total of 35.2 grams of suspect heroin/fentanyl and four grams of suspect meth, which translates to approximately an eight-ounce, court records allege.

Deputies also found two cell phones inside the vehicle and seized them, police reported.

(Investigators found no contraband while searching the man who had been driving the Chrysler, court records show.)

Field tests conducted on the confiscated substances “confirmed the presence” of heroin and methamphetamine, court records allege.

Scheduled for a Sept. 11 preliminary hearing, Birch is facing four charges, including two counts of possession of a controlled and dangerous substance with intent to distribute, which is a felony that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $15,000 fine if convicted, according to court records.

Birch remained in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond on Thursday, two days after his bail review hearing, court records show.

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