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Mobtown Beat

The 410 Factor
Nightclub links vending machine boss to violent prison gang

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 4/22/2009

An affidavit in support of search warrants in the BGF case, in addition to documents filed in two other federal cases, suggests an intriguing overlap between the allegedly violent BGF drug gang and a prominent businessman with political ties.

In December, Tomeka Harris and four men were indicted in a federal bank-fraud and identity-theft case which alleged that Harris had dozens of credit cards manufactured with other people's account information. Harris owns Club 410, a nightclub that police shuttered under the city's "padlock" ordinance earlier this month for drugs and violence. In January, the feds filed a multi-million-dollar forfeiture action against assets of John Zorzit, owner of Nick's Amusements, based on allegations of illegal gambling. Zorzit is Harris' landlord at Club 410, making Harris the nexus for three current federal investigations, two of them involving allegations of white-collar crime.

It is by no means clear that these cases are connected. In the BGF search-warrant affidavit, Baltimore Police Det. William Nickoles writes, "based on discussions with other law enforcement officers, I have learned that Harris was arrested on February 6, 2009 on federal fraud charges." Zorzit--who has not been charged with any crime--is not mentioned anywhere in the BGF documents, and Baltimore City Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld punted a question from Sun reporter Justin Fenton about the Club 410 factor.

"I'm reluctant to go past the four corners of the investigation," Bealefeld said.

Reached on April 16, Zorzit's lawyer, Dale Kelberman, sounds unaware of the BGF case. "I don't know that there is any connection other than landlord-tenant," he says. After seizing Zorzit's assets in late January, federal investigators would only say that the investigation into Zorzit was ongoing.

But the Zorzit case--which received attention after a forfeiture action was filed against him in January because for 14 years he used the brother of Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski (D-6th District) as a runner to collect the money from his illegal slot machines--is perhaps more interesting for the amounts of money involved (the feds seized close to $1.2 million in bank accounts and more than $41,000 in cash--including some above the ceiling tiles in an office bathroom) and for his links to Harris. Items 38 and 114 on the search warrant return in Zorzit's case reads, "Tomeka Harris client files."

In the BGF warrant application (see "Guerrilla Warfare," Mobtown Beat, April 22,2009), Baltimore Police Det. Nickoles writes that Club 410 was frequented by BGF leader Eric Brown's friends, called "the McCabe Boys." According to intercepted conversations between Harris and Brown, "Harris discussed how, through her job, she is able to establish different fraudulent corporations for some of her associates," the affidavit states. "I believe that Harris was telling Brown that one of her other business ventures is establishing bogus corporations for close associates so that they can obtain loans from banks in order to purchase high priced items such as vehicles." The telephone Harris was using was registered to a company called Capital First Enterprise, which Harris formed in December of 2007 "as a business solution for new or existing businesses."

According to an Aug. 26, 2008, police report in the liquor board file, Michael Hayes, a codefendant of Harris' in the bank-fraud case, went to Club 410 to argue about a vehicle that he sold to the club owner. He quickly found himself outnumbered, so he fled on his Suzuki GSX 1000 motorcycle "and was shot at." The club was raided in January 2007 under management of the previous owner (who was also a tenant of Zorzit), Michael Holman, who was arrested after a simultaneous search of a condominium unit on the 11th floor of the iconic Belvedere on the corner of North Charles and Chase streets. Police reportedly seized heroin residue, paraphernalia, papers, and a handgun. Those charges were later dropped.

The BGF warrant affidavit details another drug deal that was set to take place at the Belvedere this year, but was aborted when the gang members heard police talking about the meeting on a scanner.

In several stories since March 27, The Sun has quoted Tomeka Harris as the manager and owner of Club 410, reporting that she is a "law student" from Havre de Grace but not reporting the fraud charges she faced or the connection to Zorzit, who has given thousands to local politicians and is one of the city's largest vending machine impresarios, with business interests in Delaware and Florida. Zorzit's liquor license brokerage has raised eyebrows in the past, however. In 2005, The Sun noted that he had sold two licenses that should have expired under a state law that required licenses to be sold within 180 days of a bar's closing. One of those licenses went to the Capital Grille, which reportedly paid $50,000. The other one transferred to Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis, who used it to open his Full Moon Barb-B-Que in Canton.

Additional reporting by Van Smith

Tomeka Harris Bank Fraud Indictment Nick's Amusements Forfeiture Nick's Amusements Return

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