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Police Crack Down On Group Dealing Marijuana In Downtown Bethesda Plaza

By Aaron Kraut

Wednesday - 4/23/2014, 3:25pm  ET

The public plaza at 7600 Old Georgetown RoadThe plaza area at Old Georgetown Road and Edgemoor Lane in downtown Bethesda is a popular hangout spot for teenagers and a popular spot to munch on a burrito.

But last fall, county officials started to notice some “unsavory characters” hanging out in the area, which sits between a Chipotle and the county’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

Ken Hartman, director of the Regional Services Center, said he coordinated with police to bring some extra attention to the plaza. A 2nd District Police investigation resulted in three people being charged for dealing marijuana near the prominent corner.

This month, those three have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty, according to court records. For two of the three charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, their jail sentences included probation terms that require them to stay away from the area of 7600 Old Georgetown Rd.

Andrew Wooten, 28, of Silver Spring was found guilty of of distribution and conspiracy to distribute marijuana on March 6 and sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised probation earlier this month.

Bethesda police district commander Capt. David Falcinelli said an investigation found Wooten was a “higher tier street-level dealer.”

Vincent Cromer, 24, was his underling, Faclinelli said. Cromer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana on April 15 and was sentenced to a year in prison with 18 months of probation.

David Cook, 29, of Silver Spring was also convicted on April 15 when he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He will be sentenced on June 12, though the Montgomery County Circuit Court has indicated it will sentence Cook to 90 days in prison.

Because the area is so popular among teenagers and because it’s home to an apartment complex, businesses and the Regional Services Center, Hartman provided a victim impact statement to the state’s attorney during Wooten’s sentencing.

“For parents who let their kids wander around after school, there are a lot of issues that go on and it doesn’t matter where you are in the county or what community you’re in,” Hartman said. “Even in downtown Bethesda, there are people, sometimes older people, who will be up to unsavory activity.”

Faclinelli said his 2nd District officers will continue to keep an eye on the area.

“Marijuana is oftentimes a gateway to other drugs like cocaine and heroine, and we have unfortunately all seen the tragedies across the area from untimely deaths of our young people from using these drugs,” Falcinelli said. “Officers from the 2nd District will be giving extra attention to this area to ensure that it remains a place where business owners and residents feel safe.”