ELKTON — A business owner accused of allowing people to live in storage units on his commercial property in Elkton is facing criminal charges — after investigators calculated that officers had handled 26 calls for service there in a six-week period, with the incidents including heroin overdoses, drug possessions, fights, thefts and a stabbing that also was linked to the place, according to Cecil County District Court records.
Lt. Holly Smith of the Elkton Police Department arrested the business owner, Wilbur James Whalen Jr., 66, last week and charged him with maintaining a drug-related common nuisance and disorderly house at his Whalen Mini-Storage business in the 400 block of West Main Street, which shares that property with another business of his, Whalen Radiator Repair, court records show.
It marks the second such criminal case filed against Whalen in two months.
On Oct. 11, after tallying numerous calls for service that EPD officers had handled at Whalen’s business in the previous several weeks, Smith arrested Whalen and charged him with the same two offenses he is facing in his most recent case. The investigator also filed drug charges against Whalen, who allegedly possessed heroin/fentanyl, morphine and two prescription painkillers at the time of his arrest, court records show. Whalen is awaiting trial in those criminal cases.
In this latest criminal case, the statement of probable cause submitted by Smith indicates that the 26 calls for service at Whalen’s storage facility occurred from Oct. 9 — two days before his arrest in the first case — to Nov. 26, the day that Smith arrested Whalen in the second criminal case, court records show.
Each call for service listed in court records includes a date, time and a synopsis of the incident.
Court records indicate, for example, that EPD officers responded to an area across the street from Whalen’s Mini Storage shortly before 2 a.m. Oct. 13 for a call regarding a stabbing. “The individual arrested for the stabbing was an individual already identified as living at Whalen’s and arrested for crimes at Whalen’s,” court records allege.
The list of calls for service includes an Oct. 24 burglary complaint in which $7,880 in property was stolen from a storage unit there.
“The investigation led to the arrest of two individuals who had already been identified as renting a storage unit for use as a residence at Whalen’s,” court records allege.
Smith noted in charging documents, “There are no residential structures on the property and it is not zoned for such use.”
In addition, court papers list that EPD officers handled an assault at the storage facility Oct. 29, conducted a court-approved drug raid there Nov. 11, handled a drug overdose there Nov. 3 and found drugs on the patient, and responded to a “report of a subject from Whalen’s seen stealing items from a neighboring residence and taking them to Whalen’s” on Nov. 7.
Moreover, according to court records, a nearby resident reported a domestic disturbance Nov. 8 in which the woman involved in the dispute possibly had a knife. The investigator reported in court records, “Subjects involved later found residing in storage unit at Whalen’s.”
The list includes additional drug overdoses, as well as others arrests for drug possession, theft and other offenses.
“Multiple individuals who have claimed residency in a storage unit at Whalen’s Mini-Storage & Radiator Shop and/or who have been identified as having been present at Whalen’s Mini-Storage & Radiator Shop with associates/renters of units for the unauthorized purpose of residency in a storage unit, whether residing there or visiting, have been identified as having violent and/or criminal histories,” court records allege.
The first criminal case against Whalen identifies 33 of those people, while the most recent one identifies 12, according to court records.
Police officials and court records allege that Whalen is aware that people are living in his storage units and that he is complicit.
“The rumor is he is taking cash to let people live in his storage units. He is a facilitator and his property is acting as a flophouse. On a weekly, if not daily basis, we are handling calls for service there, and it (the property) is a plight on the neighborhood. The residents in the neighboring homes were thankful when he was arrested,” Capt. Joseph Zurolo, an EPD spokesman, told the Cecil Whig on Tuesday.
In the most recent charging document, a call for service entry for Nov. 22 reads, “Officers conducted a property check at Whalen’s and found storage unit 25 with the door partially open and set up as a bedroom. They then found two individuals residing in unit 19 with propane heater, coffee maker, furniture, etc. The officers then followed the extension cords and located two individuals residing in unit 1 and two individuals residing in unit 2. Officers spoke with Wilbur Whalen and he did not wish for anyone to be removed from the property.”
According to court records, Whalen has ignored repeated warnings issued by authorities and has declined assistance offered by EPD, the town’s Building and Zoning Office and the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal to remove the people living on his commercial property.
“Wilbur Whalen Jr. resides on the property of the business in violation of zoning and is aware of the individuals residing in the storage units and office/garage space. He is aware of the nuisance issues and crimes regarding (drugs) being committed on the property. Wilbur Whalen Jr. has ignored the use of extension cords by his ‘tenants’ to run electrical appliances to storage units, the use of propane tanks and heaters inside storage units, the use of storage units and the business office for (drug) administering/use and has put the surrounding businesses at risk of fire ... As recently as Nov. 23, officers identified six individuals in storage units and approximately 15 individuals in the garage area,” court records allege.
Charging documents also indicate that a major fire — it occurred in February 2014 — destroyed several units at that storage facility.
According to Cecil Whig archives, that blaze caused an estimated $800,000 in damage and it occurred nine days after firefighters had battled a smaller blaze at that property.
Moreover, at that time, MOSFM detectives reported that it appeared that a person or people had been living in the unit in which the fire started — Storage Unit 89, which was one of 27 units at Whalen’s Mini Storage and was located in the middle row of the units.
“Evidence of sleeping materials and use of electrical appliances was located inside the unit during the on-scene investigation,” a fire marshal spokesman said.
In Whalen’s latest criminal case, court records indicate that he posted a $7,500 bond Friday to gain his pre-trial freedom, after spending three days in the Cecil County Detention Center. Before his bail review hearing, Whalen had been held without bond, court records show.