News and Press Releases

12 People Indicted in Large Scale Drug and Money Laundering Case

February 1, 2012

Twelve individuals have been charged in an indictment with violating various federal drug laws which include conspiracy to distribute in excess of 30 kilograms of heroin, 12 kilograms of cocaine, 1000 pounds of marijuana and laundering in excess of $21 million in U.S. currency, announced United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade. Ms. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso, Drug Enforcement Administration, Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Brian Moskowitz, Special Agent In Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Homeland Security Investigations in Detroit.

Indicted were Carlos Ellis Powell, 37 of Washington Township, MI, Eric Jerome Powell, 34 of Franklin Farms, MI, Ignacio Avalos, 21 of Phoenix, AZ, Kenneth Robert Daniels, 53 of Detroit, MI, Earnest Lee Proge, Jr., 36 of Detroit, MI, Tobias John Proge, 28 of Clinton Township, MI, Dwayne Rnay Taylor, 35 of Detroit, MI, Tamika Olivia Turner, 34 of Eastpointe, MI, Juan Valle, 59 of Coldwater, MI, Margarita Lopez DeVallejo, 39 of LaHabla, CA, Benny Bernard Whigham, 34 of Detroit and Donald Lee Wilson, 49 of Parkland, FL.

The indictment, which was returned on January 25, 2012 and unsealed today, alleges that beginning in 2006 and continuing to the present, Carlos Powell, Eric Powell and ten others operated a drug organization which dealt in multi-kilogram quantities of marijuana, heroin and cocaine in the Detroit metropolitan area. The members of the organization would arrange for large amounts of money derived from the sale of drugs to be transported to Phoenix, Arizona, Mexico and elsewhere for the purpose of purchasing more controlled substances. As part of the conspiracy, the members of the organization would use semi-trucks and vehicles equipped with traps and hidden compartments to transport marijuana, cocaine and heroin, as well as cash generated from the sale of these drugs.

Since 2006, law enforcement officers from across the country have seized over 12 kilograms of cocaine, 30 kilograms of heroin and 1000 pounds of marijuana destined for distribution by this organization. More than $21 million in cash was seized by law enforcement officers between June 2010 and November 2010. The members of this organization, using the illegal proceeds of their narcotic sales, purchased and leased numerous luxury vehicles, acquired and sold real property and purchased jewelry while concealing the true source and nature of the funds involved in the transaction through false names and nominee purchasers.

It is alleged that members of the organization would deposit large amounts of cash derived from the sale of drugs into various bank accounts; purchase cashier's checks and money orders; and wire transfer these funds. These funds would then be used to purchase assets and pay personal expenses with the goal of concealing the true source, nature and ownership of the funds which had been derived from the organization's drug sales.

"We are focused on dismantling major drug trafficking organizations that bring illegal drugs into our community," McQuade said. "We want young people to see that the lucrative rewards from drug trafficking are short-lived and lead to criminal charges."

DEA Special Agent in Charge Robert Corso stated, "These indictments dismantled a large drug trafficking organization that supplied heroin, cocaine and marijuana into communities across Michigan. The scope of this investigation is exemplified by the millions of dollars in illegal drug profits they laundered, as well as by the large quantities of drugs that were seized. The seizure of more than 20 kilos of heroin from one group operating in Michigan is significant. This should serve as clear evidence that the growing opiate/heroin abuse problem in SE Michigan is real, and is being addressed. An investigation of this size could not be accomplished without the collaborative efforts of all our law enforcement partners, and they should all be commended."

IRS Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez stated, “"These drug organizations that make their money while poisoning our children and destroying our neighborhoods will be thoroughly investigated. IRS will ruin their ability to make money on our streets".

"Thwarting today's criminal organizations requires the collective expertise, diverse statutory authorities, and jurisdiction of many agencies and departments," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Detroit "This case is a perfect example of the power of collaboration and its impact on public safety here in Detroit."

The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture of jewelry appraised at over $800,000, 8 pieces of real property in Michigan and Georgia valued in excess of $750,000, 10 vehicles, including a 2004 Rolls Royce, 2006 and 2008 Bentley, a 2006 Ferrari, 4 Mercedes, a Ranger Rover and two boats.

This case was investigation by special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Homeland Security Investigations with the assistance of officers from Northville Township Police Department, Plymouth Township Police Department, Warren Police Department, Redford Police Department, Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, Detroit Police Department and the Michigan State Police.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.



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