Leader of Large University of North Carolina/Charlotte Marijuana
May 1 (Charlotte, NC) – A Charlotte man convicted by a federal jury on drug, money laundering and firearm charges was sentenced to 196 months in prison today, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Chief U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr. also ordered Eric Mark Giles, 40, of Charlotte, to serve four years of supervised release following his prison sentence.
The same jury also convicted Giles’ co-defendant, Kyle Corsi, 38, of Charlotte, for his participation in the drug distribution ring. Judge Conrad sentenced Corsi to 120 months in prison and five years of supervised release for his participation in the drug conspiracy.
Joining U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement are Harry S. Sommers, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which oversees the Charlotte District Office; Keith Fixel, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Charlotte; Jeannine A. Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI); and Chief Rodney D. Monroe of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD).
In August 2010, Giles and Corsi were convicted by a federal jury following a three-day trial on charges related to a $1 million marijuana distribution ring operating in the University area of Charlotte from 2006 to 2009. According to evidence presented at trial through court documents and court proceedings, Giles, a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte), led a large, high-grade marijuana distribution organization which generated drug proceeds in excess of $1 million in a two and a half year time period. Trial evidence established that Giles was primarily responsible for the shipment of high-grade marijuana from Santa Cruz, California, to distributors based in the UNC Charlotte area. According to testimony, Corsi and others received and then sold the marijuana for approximately $5,000 per pound.
Trial evidence showed that the group used bank accounts at Bank of America and Fifth Third Bank in North Carolina to launder their drug proceeds by making large cash deposits in branches in North Carolina and corresponding cash withdrawals in California. The co-conspirators kept their individual transactions under $10,000 in an effort to avoid Federal Currency Transaction Reporting requirements, a practice referred to as “structuring.” Trial evidence included bank surveillance photos showing Corsi depositing drug proceeds at bank branches in North Carolina and Giles making corresponding cash withdrawals in California, all for the purpose of promoting the drug distribution scheme.
At trial, prosecutors presented evidence of numerous seized packages of marijuana sent via Express Mail through the U.S. Postal Service in the name of Giles’ front company, “Norcal Athletics (sic), Inc.” Prosecutors also presented postal surveillance photos depicting Giles shipping the marijuana-laden packages to an addresses controlled by the ring in the UNC Charlotte area. According to trial evidence, Giles and Corsi coordinated the shipment and receipt of marijuana and the financial transactions via text messages. The text messages, as trial testimony and evidence revealed, included detailed discussions of the marijuana distribution ring reflecting the group’s operations over several years.
In addition, trial evidence showed that Giles, a previously convicted felon, unlawfully possessed a firearm on two different occasions in violation of federal law. The jury also found that Giles possessed a firearm in furtherance of the marijuana conspiracy.
Giles and Corsi were convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of conspiracy to structure financial transactions in order to avoid federal reporting requirements. Giles also was convicted of one count of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms.
In pronouncing the sentence for Giles, Judge Conrad noted that this was a “very sophisticated network of marijuana distribution… money laundering and structuring activity of which defendant Giles was a leader.”
“Giles clearly held a prominent role in this high-level marijuana trafficking organization. The distribution of large quantities of marijuana fed countless numbers of drug users. Because of the dedicated efforts of our many law enforcement colleagues, Giles and his co-conspirators can no longer feed drug customers with the dangerous drugs that they seek,” stated DEA Atlanta Field Division Special Agent in Charge Sommers.
“Giles and Corsi’s lengthy prison sentences are the final chapter of a complex drug scheme that distributed large amounts of marijuana through the UNC Charlotte area and concealed and laundered the profits using our financial institutions,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins. “Today’s outcome is the result of a tremendous amount of effort and cooperation from all law enforcement agencies involved in this case. We will use every tool in our arsenal, from drug and firearm laws to money laundering and structuring statutes, to dismantle and defeat these drug schemes.”
“The use of cash is legal, however, structuring cash transactions in an attempt to evade federal reporting requirements is illegal. Mr. Giles structured his deposits from drug proceeds in order to try to hide it from the government and individuals who do so will be pursued,” stated Special Agent in Charge Hammett.
All the other members of the drug and money laundering conspiracy have already been sentenced as follows:
• Keith Kraszewski, 29, of Ft. Lauderdale, FL., was sentenced in April 2011 to 41 months in prison and four years of supervised release.
• William Skach, 27, of Asheville, NC, was sentenced in May 2011 to 27 months in prison and four years of supervised release.
• Barrett Fischer, 30, of Charlotte, NC, was sentenced in April 2011 to 23 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
• Ryan Grubb, 27, of Charlotte, NC, was sentenced in May 2011 to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
• Joyce Tedder, 26, of Charlotte, NC, was sentenced in May 2011 to time served and two years of supervised release.
Giles and Corsi have been in local federal custody since their initial appearances in 2009. Upon designation of a federal facility they will be transferred into the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
The investigation was handled by the DEA, the USPIS, the IRS and the CMPD. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelli H. Ferry and Mark T. Odulio of U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.
DEA Atlanta Field Division Special Agent in Charge Sommers encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justhinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov .