New York Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Marijuana Trafficking Charge
ALBUQUERQUE – Gary Anthony Harris, 50, of Carle Place, N.Y., pleaded guilty late yesterday afternoon in Las Cruces federal court to a marijuana trafficking charge under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Harris and co-defendant Eric Bernard Harris, 46, of St. Albans, N.Y., were charged by criminal complaint on Aug. 8, 2013, with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. The criminal complaint stated that on July 27, 2011, Carl Francis Carter, 60, of Deptford, N.J., was arrested in Hidalgo County, N.M., after an officer of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Division found 527 kilograms (1163 pounds) of marijuana concealed in Carter’s commercial vehicle during a routine inspection. Subsequent investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) linked Gary Harris and Eric Harris to the marijuana seized from Carter.
According to the criminal complaint, Carter had been in communication with Gary Harris on the night of his arrest, and Eric Harris had attempted to contact Carter the morning after his arrest. Investigation also revealed that Gary Harris and Eric Harris traveled from New York to Phoenix, Ariz., on July 17, 2011, to facilitate the purchase of the marijuana found in Carter’s commercial vehicle and to transport it from Tucson, Ariz., to New York. Gary Harris and Eric Harris traveled back to New York on July 27, 2011, following Carter’s arrest.
On Aug. 13, 2013, HSI agents arrested Gary Harris in Carle Place, N.Y., and Eric Harris in New York, N.Y. The two men subsequently appeared in Las Cruces federal court to face the charges against them. On Nov. 13, 2013, Gary Harris and Eric Harris were indicted and charged with conspiracy and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Yesterday afternoon, Gary Harris pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. In his plea agreement, Gary Harris admitted possession of 300 pounds of the marijuana that was found in Carter’s commercial vehicle. He also acknowledged that Carter was hauling a total of 527 kilograms (1163 pounds) of marijuana when he was arrested on July 27, 2011. Gary Harris further admitted traveling from New York to Phoenix to facilitate the purchase and transportation of the marijuana seized from Carter.
Gary Harris faces a penalty of not less than five years and not more than 40 years in prison when he is sentenced. His sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled. As part of his plea agreement, Gary Harris will forfeit $52,882.97 in drug proceeds which were seized from two bank accounts and a safe deposit box by HSI pursuant to seizure warrants.
Carter pled guilty to a marijuana trafficking charge on Jan. 31, 2012, and admitted knowingly possessing 527 kilograms of marijuana on July 27, 2011. Carter admitted knowing that the marijuana was concealed in his commercial vehicle and that he expected to be paid for delivering the marijuana for further distribution. Carter’s sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled. He also faces a penalty of not less than five years and not more than 40 years in prison when he is sentenced.
Eric Harris, who has entered a not guilty plea to the charges against him, is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on March 7, 2014. The charges against Eric Harris are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Deming office of HSI with assistance from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Division, and is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy M. Castellano of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.