After a widely publicized series of raids from Florida to New York City, on Oct. 5 the US Attorney's Southern District Office in Manhattan "announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging ten individuals and a complaint charging 40 individuals with participating in a massive marijuana trafficking ring that transported ton-quantities of marijuana from Florida and California for distribution in the greater New York area from the early 1990's to 2010."
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said: "This case began with an investigation into the source of large amounts of laundered money." The so-called conspiracy's alleged leader had been suspected of involvement in marijuana trafficking since the early 1990's.
The indictment alleges the defendants grew marijuana in Florida and shipped it to New York City via tractor trailers sometimes hidden in shipments of legal flowers. Boxes with marijuana were allegedly marked with an "X." The alleged leader was the "primary user of over ten telephone lines intercepted during the investigation." While the group is being portrayed as "violent" and members allegedly heard plotting to "hunt" someone who owed them money, no specific acts of violence are mentioned in the ICE press release.
The raids were coordinated by an interagency task force after an 18-month joint investigation including "over 350 agents" from "ICE HSI [Homeland Security Investigations], DEA, the New York City Police Department, New York State Police, DOI, the US Marshals Service, the Maryland State Police, the Bergen County [New Jersey] Police Department, the Rocky Mount [North Carolina] Police Department, the Miami Dade Police Department, the Greenburgh [New York] Police Department, the Passaic County [New Jersey] Police Department and the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City."
The indictment alleges "ton-quantities" of marijuana were transported, yet relatively little marijuana was seized during the raids. The DEA press release asserts that "$2 million in marijuana proceeds and over 360 pounds of marijuana have been linked to this organization." These proceeds allegedly include seven properties owned by the so-called conspiracy's leader, two tractor trailers, additional quantities of marijuana, three rifles, a loaded handgun and over $100,000 in cash seized at various points in the investigation.
Three Assistant US Attroneys from the prestigious Southern District of New York, Amie N. Ely, Daniel P. Chung, and Sarah E. McCallum have been tasked with proving the allegation of Jim Hayes, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), that the group, "dominated the wholesale marijuana market in New York for 20 years." This will be hard to prove given the small amounts of money and cash found. Proving 50 defendants were guilty of providing the level of support that warrants a conspiracy charge and ten-year mandatory minimum sentence will also prove difficult, and is a common scare tactic.
As of this writing, several of the defendants have made bail and have been remanded to home custody with electronic monitoring. They will likely be drug-tested at random until Election Day and beyond. Meanwhile, three apparently intelligent prosecutors will spend years deciphering a crime where no charges of violence have been filed.
Of Ironic Note: Ms. McCallum’s father-in law, former Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum, prosecuted the tobacco industry for, "an over-50-year scheme to mislead the American public about the health risks of smoking."
Read Assistant Attorney Amie N. Ely’s legal paper: Prosecutorial Discretion as an Ethical Necessity: The Ashcroft Memorandum's Curtailment of the Prosecutor's Duty to 'Seek Justice'
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael D. Lockard of the Office's Asset Forfeiture Unit is responsible for the forfeiture.