News and Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

THURSDAY - June 9, 2011

CO-CONSPIRATOR SENTENCED IN MARIJUANA GROWING OPERATION

RALEIGH - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that in federal court yesterday United States District Judge James C. Dever III, sentenced JAMES LEEVANN HOWARD, also known as Lee Howard, to 48 months imprisonment followed by five years supervised release.

A Federal Grand Jury returned a two-count Criminal Indictment on January 6, 2010, charging HOWARD, 44, with conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and conspiring to commit money laundering. On August 2, 2010, he pled guilty to the charges.

On August 11, 2009, search warrants were executed at two residences in Franklinton and Youngsville. Officers discovered a large indoor marijuana growing operation in the basement of the Franklinton residence, which included a 12,000 gallon watering system. At the Youngsville residence, which was the home of co-conspirators David and Whitney Clarke, officers seized 59 firearms, including a machine gun, and $63,121 in United States currency. The investigation revealed that HOWARD purchased the Franklinton residence in 2002 and rented it out to David and Whitney Clarke so that they would have a place to conduct the marijuana grow operation. From 2002 until 2008, HOWARD received proceeds from the sale of the marijuana through regular cash payments by David Clarke.

In addition to HOWARD, the following individuals have been convicted and sentenced in this matter:

On November 19, 2009, Shane McCrossin pled guilty to conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute one hundred or more marijuana plants. On April 9, 2010, McCrossin was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and 5 years supervised release.

On March 22, 2010, David Clarke pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and possession of a machine gun. On September 28, 2010, David Clarke was sentenced to 84 months imprisonment and 5 years supervised release.

On June 7, 2010, Whitney Clarke pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. On September 28, 2010, Whitney Clarke was sentenced to 48 months imprisonment.

On October 4, 2010, Stephen Barber pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. On February 24, 2010, Barber was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and 5 years supervised release.

On November 18, 2010, Sean McGovern pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. On May 17, 2011, McGovern was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment and 5 years supervised release.

Mr. Holding commented, “This extensive and lucrative marijuana growing operation has ended thanks to local, state and federal agencies working together. We are pleased with the outcome of this case and hope that others that use illicit means for financial gain will take heed.”

Jeannine A. Hammett, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigations stated, "This is an important victory for the American public.Not only is a criminal going to jail for his crimes, but the government has seized a significant portion of the illegal proceeds through asset forfeiture.The role of IRS-CI in narcotics investigations is to follow the money so we can financially disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.One of the government's most powerful weapons is the ability to seize through asset forfeiture the assets associated with narcotics-related crime. IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to provide its financial expertise as we work alongside our law enforcement partners to bring criminals to justice."

The investigation was coordinated between the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division, the Wake County ABC, and the Wake and Franklin County Sheriffs’ Offices. The arrests ended a seven-year drug conspiracy in which hundreds of pounds of hydroponic marijuana were distributed throughout North Carolina and millions of dollars in illicit gains were made. In addition to marijuana, officers seized numerous motor vehicles, including a 2005 Maserati M138 Coupe, a boat, 59 firearms, real property in Franklin and Wake counties, and cash, bank and investment accounts totaling more than $500,000.

The government was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Eric Goulian.

 

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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