Fugitive Sentenced in Absentia for Helping to Smuggle Marijuana Trafficking Ring Cash to Canada
DEC 08 -- Steven W. Derr, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England and Nora R. Dannehy, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that JOSE LEGUEN-MEJIA, 29, a citizen of the Dominican Republic formerly residing on West 168th Street in the Bronx, New York, was sentenced today, in absentia, by United States District Judge Mark R. Kravitz in New Haven to 30 months of imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release. On April 13, 2009, LEGUEN-MEJIA pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to smuggle bulk U.S. currency out of the United States.
This matter stems from “Operation Weed Whacker,” a joint law enforcement investigation into a drug trafficking organization that was responsible for smuggling shipments of high-quality hydroponic marijuana from Canada for distribution around southwestern Connecticut. The investigation revealed that Michael and Brian Danzi and others imported hundreds of pounds of marijuana into the United States over several years, and then sold approximately 30 pounds of the marijuana per month at a wholesale cost of approximately $4,000 per pound. The proceeds of the marijuana distribution were then routed back to Canada.
Federal agents seized nearly $800,000, which was being smuggled to Canada, during the course of the investigation. LEGUEN-MEJIA played a role in the smuggling of cash by transferring a sack containing $157,000 in U.S. currency to another member of the conspiracy in an effort to smuggle the money out of the United States.
LEGUEN-MEJIA was arrested in July 2008 and was detained until September 2008 when he was released on a bond that was secured by $5,000 cash and a $250,000 surety agreement, which was signed by friends and family members, including his mother.
Since June 2009, LEGUEN-MEJIA has failed to contact his attorney and is believed to have absconded. The Government is seeking forfeiture of the cash bond, and is seeking to collect the amount of the surety agreement from the signatories on his bond.
On May 5, 2009, Michael and Brian Danzi, who are brothers, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Michael Danzi also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to smuggle bulk cash out of the United States, and Brian Danzi pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of marijuana. They await sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Dannehy commended the investigation of this matter that was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Greenwich, Stratford, Stamford, Norwalk, and Naugatuck Police Departments.