Federal Indictment Alleges Marijuana Traffickers Made $22 Million
DEC 01 -- KANSAS CITY, KAN. – In an indictment unsealed today, federal prosecutors allege a drug trafficking organization operating in Kansas City, Kan., did more than $22 million worth of business distributing marijuana.
Twenty defendants are charged in the indictment, which alleges the traffickers shipped more than 23,000 pounds of marijuana from Phoenix, Ariz., to metro Kansas City at the direction of the leaders of the conspiracy, Gladstone McDowell, 50, Kansas City, Mo., and Michael Francois, 39, Kansas City, Mo.
In a separate count, the indictment asks the court for a $22 million money judgment against the defendants and seeks the forfeiture of buildings in the 3900 block of Chestnut, the 3400 block of Park, the 3200 block of Brooklyn, the 1800 block of E. 67th Terrace, the 5900 block of Lawn, the 8400 block of Oldham, and the 4300 block of Woodland in Kansas City, Mo.
“This indictment is the result of an 18-month investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department,” said U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch. “The defendants are alleged to have made tens of millions of dollars by distributing tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana.”
“This investigation targeted a Jamaican drug trafficking organization transporting 2,000 pounds per month of marijuana from Phoenix to Kansas City and other locations throughout the United States,” said David G. Mizell, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration. “The participating city, state and federal agencies worked together with a goal of disrupting the trafficking of marijuana in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The investigation is continuing.”
According to the indictment:
– In May 2007 investigators arrested defendant Michael Francois in Avondale, Ariz., and seized more than 204.5 kilograms of marijuana and more than $200,000 in cash. Soon after, defendant Stephen Blackburn attempted to recover the seized cash by claiming the money belonged to his church.
– In November 2007, defendants Gladstone McDowell and Marlon Forrester were arrested in Oklahoma transporting $140,000 cash. Defendants Stephen Blackburn, Mechieen McDowell and Terry Brown posted bond for McDowell and Forrester. Again, Blackburn claimed the money that was seized belonged to his church.
– In February 2008, investigators seized more than $366,040 in two packages at a UPS store in Las Vegas. Defendants Tamary Brown and Marlon Forrester attempted to pick up the packages, which had been sent to a UPS drop box rented by defendant Deidre Turner and addressed to Stephenson Joseph, an alias used by defendant Michael Francois.
– In May of 2009, investigators tracked a series of shipments from Mesa, Ariz.., to Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., and a series of financial transactions involving the defendants.
Charged along with McDowell and Francois are:
The 10-count indictment includes the following charges: – Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, which carries a penalty of not less than 10 years and not more than life and a fine up to $4 million.
– Engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, which carries a penalty of not less than 20 years and not more than life and a fine up to $2 million.
– Using a communications facility in furtherance of drug trafficking, which carries a maximum penalty of 4 years and a fine up to $30,000 on each count.
– Conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $500,000.
– Money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $500,000.
– Possession with intent to distribute marijuana, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $1 million.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Missouri worked on the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Martin and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Smith are prosecuting.
In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments filed merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.