United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that Michael Pearlingi, age 44, of Key West, Florida, appeared before U.S. District Judge Roberto A. Lange on August 27, 2013, and pled guilty to Count I of the Indictment that charged him with Conspiracy to Distribute and Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance.
The maximum penalty upon conviction is not more than 20 years of imprisonment, a $1,000,000 fine, or both; at least 3 years of supervised release; an additional 2 years of supervised release upon revocation; and a $100 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Restitution may also be ordered.
The charge stems from an incident on March 14, 2013, wherein a South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper spoke with occupants of a motor home, including the defendant, when they stopped for fuel. The trooper’s suspicions were heightened during the conversation, and he deployed his service dog that is trained to detect the odor of certain illegal narcotics, including marijuana.
The trooper searched the motor home and found large garbage bags containing marijuana, packaged in approximately one pound bundles. There was also a smaller amount of personal use marijuana in the motor home. The total amount of marijuana found was approximately 113 pounds.
The investigation was conducted by the Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Enforcement Task Force and the South Dakota Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn N. Rich is prosecuting the case.
Pearlingi was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending sentencing which has been set for November 7, 2013. Pearlingi’s co-defendant, David Wallace, has pled not guilty and is scheduled for trial on November 5, 2013.