LEADERS IN A $3 MILLION MARIJUANA AND MONEY LAUNDERING CONSPIRACY EACH SENTENCED TO OVER 10 YEARS IN PRISON
Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. sentenced Jose Valenzuela, age 59, and his wife Beatriz Valenzuela, age 56, both of Nogales, Arizona, today to 137 months and 125 months in prison, respectively, each followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and for a money laundering conspiracy. The Valenzuelas also forfeited bank accounts worth $1,265,740.65 and $970,000 in cash.
The sentence 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.
“This case is an excellent example of how the teamwork between HSI and the Prince George’s County Police Department in dismantling a drug trafficking and money laundering organization can benefit our communities,” said William Winter, HSI special agent in charge in Baltimore. “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.”
According to the Valenzuelas’ guilty pleas, between June 6, 2011 and July 9, 2012, Jose and Beatriz Valenzuela utilized package shipping businesses they owned to ship marijuana from Arizona to Maryland and received proceeds in return. 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 also coordinated the distribution of the marijuana in Maryland. Conspirators James Lewis, Jr., Ernest Rawlings, Jr., Errol Comma and Jane Nkemateh all assisted in the receipt of packages containing marijuana from Arizona. 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. On July 11, 2012, law enforcement executed search warrants at the Valenzuelas’ home and businesses. They recovered $970,000 in cash from their home and more than 750 pounds of marijuana from the businesses.
According to their plea agreements, in order 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, Jose and Beatriz Valenzuela arranged for Hill and other conspirators to deposit the proceeds of the conspiracy into bank accounts they controlled, with each transaction being less than $10,000. Some of those accounts were in the names of third parties.
Antonio Hill, Jr., a/k/a NuNu, age 33, of Largo, Maryland; Erico Hill, a/k/a Rico, age 31, of Hyattsville, Maryland; James Lewis, Jr., a/k/a Little Man, age 23, of Hyattsville; Kenneth Davis, a/k/a Benny, age 25 of Hyattsville; Ernest Rawlings, Jr.,a/k/a Junior, age 30, of Riverdale, Maryland; and Errol Comma, a/k/a E, age 31, of Lanham, Maryland, have all pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing. Jane Nkemateh, a/k/a Jayne Nekematah, age 29, of New Carrollton, Maryland, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to forfeit bank accounts worth $1,265,740.65.
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 prosecuted this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.