Nine Charged in Alleged $950,000 Marijuana Distribution and Money Laundering Conspiracy
Greenbelt, Maryland - A federal grand jury has indicted nine individuals charged with conspiring to distribute over 1,000 kilograms, or 2,200 pounds, of marijuana; and with conspiring to conduct financial transactions to conceal the source and ownership of the proceeds of the drug distribution. The indictment was returned on July 9, 2012, and unsealed today upon the arrests of the defendants.
The following defendants are charged in the two count indictment:
Jose Valenzuela, age 58, of Nogales, Arizona;
Beatriz Valenzuela, age 55, of Nogales;
Antonio Hill, Jr., a/k/a NuNu, age 32, of Largo, Maryland;
Erico Hill, a/k/a Rico, age 31, of Hyattsville, Maryland;
James Lewis, Jr., a/k/a Little Man, age 22, of Hyattsville;
Kenneth Davis, a/k/a Benny, age 24, of Hyattsville;
Ernest Rawlings, Jr.,a/k/a Junior, age 29, of Riverdale, Maryland;
Errol Comma, a/k/a E, age 30, of Lanham, Maryland; and
Jane Nkemateh, a/k/a Jayne Nekematah, age 28, of New Carrollton, Maryland.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and Chief Mark A. Magaw of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
“Earlier today, Homeland Security Investigations special agents executed seven arrest warrants in Maryland and two in Arizona resulting in the dismantling of a suspected drug trafficking and money laundering organization,” said William Winter, HSI special agent in charge in Baltimore. “This is an excellent example of how teamwork between HSI and the Prince George’s County Police Department benefits our communities. HSI works aggressively to keep illegal drugs out of our communities, and to dismantle the criminal networks that profit from drug trafficking and the crime that surrounds it.”
“I am proud of the efforts put forth by the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Narcotics Enforcement Division investigators. Their work at combating this elaborate criminal scheme will prevent untold amounts of illegal drugs from spreading across communities in our county,” said Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark A. Magaw.
The indictment alleges that from at least June 6, 2011 to the present, the defendants conspired to transport marijuana from Arizona to Maryland. The indictment further alleges that Defendants Jose Valenzuela and his wife, Beatriz Valenzuela shipped marijuana from Arizona to Maryland and received proceeds in return, while Antonio Hill, Jr., coordinated the shipment of drugs from Arizona to Maryland and managed the laundering of the proceeds to the sources of supply in Arizona, with the assistance of his brother, Erico Hill, who, according to the indictment, also coordinated the distribution of the marijuana in Maryland. The indictment further alleges that James Lewis, Jr., Ernest Rawlings, Jr., Errol Comma and Jane Nkemateh all assisted in the receipt of packages containing marijuana from Arizona; and that Lewis and Kenneth Davis further assisted in the repackaging of marijuana for distribution in Maryland, and the laundering of the proceeds to the sources of supply in Arizona.
According to the indictment, it was part of the conspiracy that the coconspirators structured financial transactions, keeping the transactions to less than $10,000 to evade IRS filing requirements for transactions involving more than $10,000 in cash, and conceal from the government large cash transactions by narcotics dealers. The indictment further alleges that the coconspirators used third parties to open bank accounts at multiple financial institutions to promote the distribution of marijuana and conceal that funds were derived from drug proceeds.
The indictment seeks the forfeiture of $950,000, believed to be the value of the cash and property involved in the conspiracies.
The defendants each face a maximum sentence of life in prison for the drug conspiracy and 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy. An initial appearance has been scheduled for the Valenzuelas later today in U.S. District Court in Tucson, Arizona. The remaining defendants will have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt this afternoon.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised HSI Baltimore, HSI Phoenix and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Mara Zusman Greenberg and Christen A. Sproule, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.