Two undercover officers were cruising v the Kentland area turn off Rte. 202 in Prince George"s County when a man ran as much as their automobile offering to offer them a "rock," the common street name for crack cocaine. One officer gave him $20. The man gave him the "small white rock," according to the police report that the incident. Together it rotate out, the substance wasn"t a narcotic. "It was only peanuts!" the man protested as he to be being arrested and led away. Time was when drug buyers went to make a purchase, lock paid your money and got their drugs. Now, the seller can be one undercover officer -- or a con artist peddling macadamia nuts, chalk, soap, peanuts or pebbles as real "crack." The explosive growth of the crack industry in the Washington area has been accompanied by a matching increase in the sale of counterfeit crack, a advance viewed by the criminal justice facility as a organic expression of totally free enterprise and also as a spark because that violence. Maryland law prohibits the sale, attempted revenue or possession through intent to sell of "noncontrolled danger substances as a regulated dangerous substance." Violators space subject to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. In Virginia, the is a misdemeanor punishable by as much as a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The District has no similar provision, however people might be charged through theft for marketing fake drugs. In Prince George"s County, just one or two cases annually to be prosecuted at first after the Maryland regulation was pass in 1981. Yet in the last three years, prosecutors said, the number of such instances has jumped sharply, and also now there space as many as five a week. "It"s gone method up," said Robert Harvey Jr., cook of the state"s attorney"s criminal psychological division. "Demand is up, and also it"s a quick way to do money. Addicts often don"t have actually the genuine stuff to sell and also they need cash come buy drugs. So they offer this fake stuff. It"s business economics . . . ." At least some in the criminal justice community view such low-overhead enterprises v a mixture that awe and also amusement. "It"s part of Americana," claimed Circuit judge Vincent Femia. "It just goes to prove what American ingenuity is." If the officer that asked for a rock obtained a real rock, that said, "What"s the complaint?" Femia suggested that encouraging the sale of fake crack might actually aid the ar by bring about buyers to shop elsewhere for the real stuff. "On a scale of priorities, these cases are not regarded by judges together seriously together the actual thing," Harvey said. Yet he added that the revenue of bogus medicine has frequently led come violence. "Purchasers who have actually been ripped off come earlier with guns and also knives," he said. "There have been a pair of homicides." In one together case, a buyer who complained about the high quality of "cocaine" being marketed was fatally shot, allegedly by a dealer, who later on was acquitted, stated Assistant State"s attorney Laura Pellatiro. "If there"s a genuine buyer who transforms around and starts yelling obscenities and also the dealer pulls the end a handgun, everything"s changed," she said. But where undercover police space at work, at the very least some of the charging documents contained in court records read more like a scenario from "Beverly Hills Cop" than a much more somber script from, say, "Miami Vice." critical Oct. 25, mount Rainier Police cook E.G. Husk was parked in a Metrobus turnaround when he was approached by a man who claimed "he had actually to do business to make money" and also asked Husk whether he want anything, the official report said. Rice peel asked the guy what the had. The man said crack. Rice peel bought "three rocks for $100." The substances tested an unfavorable for cocaine, yet the guy was arrested later that night ~ above a conterfeit charge. The male "was advised of his rights and admitted offering the rocks, stating they were just pebbles." climate there"s the situation of the "drug" that was counterfeit and also the "counterfeit" that was a drug. Samuel F. Williams, 37, that Landover was arrested double last year for allegedly offering crack and also counterfeit crack. Under analysis, the "real" stuff he allegedly offered one day came up an unfavorable and the "fake" ingredient he accused sold an additional day came up positive. Prosecutors have reindicted the on both charges, and also the cases are pending. Defense lawyers say they want to try those counterfeit cases, however defendants nearly always pick to plead guilty in return because that time served. In the peanut case, defendant Joseph Washington, 24, the Palmer Park pleaded guilty in return because that the 186 days he invested in jail unable to do bail. He additionally faced a charge of violating his probation on another charge. "It was a package deal to obtain him out of jail," stated his attorney, Richard Bury. Had actually the case gone to trial, together he had actually hoped, bury said, "We every were walking to have pet rocks to give to the jurors to take into the jury box." Bury and other defense lawyers claimed that a misdemeanor fraud fee would have been more appropriate. Castle accused prosecutors of using the felony charge to force guilty pleas that would make another conviction a 2nd offense, v the opportunity of harsher penalities upon that conviction. "We are setting them up because that a second offense," identified Harvey. "The second time around, magnified penalties come right into play." pertained to that some judge might dismiss the felony charge, Prince George"s prosecutors began charging defendants a month earlier with the additional misdemeanor crime of theft or test theft -- in effect, consumer fraud.

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"We"re law this to sort of covering ourselves," Harvey said. "There was problem raised whether in some situations we can make the noncontrolled attention substances charge stick."