Twenty Year Sentenced for Marijuana distribution conspiracy
RICHMOND, Va. - Dane Clark, a.k.a. “Oral Merchant,” 44, a Jamaican National, was sentenced today for his role in a large-scale marijuana distribution organization operating out of Petersburg, Va. United States District Judge Henry E. Hudson sentenced Clark to 240 months’ imprisonment each on his convictions for Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with the Intent to Distribute in Excess of 100 Kilograms of Marijuana, and for Conspiracy to Launder Money. The Court ordered the sentences to run concurrently.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Michael Morehart, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Richmond Field Office; Rebecca A. Sparkman, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation’s Washington, D.C., Field Office; and Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent, announced the sentence.
Clark pled guilty to the charges on May 13, 2010, but contested at sentencing his role in the offense and the weight of marijuana attributable to him. Evidence in the case established that Clark joined the already existing drug operation in May 1997. At that time, members of the organization were driving to Houston, Texas and returning to Petersburg, Virginia with 250-300 pounds of marijuana at least once a month. The drugs were then distributed in the Central Virginia area. On August 2, 1997, Clark and four other members of the organization were arrested in Texas as they were returning to Virginia with in excess of 280 pounds of marijuana. The group had obtained the marijuana from a source developed by Clark. At the time, Clark and three other individuals presented fake identification information and were released from jail.
Following the Texas arrest, the Court found, Clark changed the operations of the group. He recruited females to fly to California with large sums of money wrapped to their bodies. In Los Angeles, they would exchange the money for loads of marijuana. They were then directed to a particular X-ray scanner at the Los Angeles Airport, operated by an individual working for the California supplier, so that they could carry the suitcases filled with marijuana with them on the airplanes. The couriers would transport the suitcases to Northern Virginia, where Clark would meet them, pay them, and take the marijuana to Petersburg for redistribution. The Court found that Clark directed 24 such trips, each resulting in the transportation of 40 pounds of marijuana. Clark also had couriers fly to Houston and return with larger quantities of marijuana.
The evidence further established that in July 1998, following the arrest of another member of the organization in Tennessee while transporting approximately 270 pounds of marijuana, Clark left Virginia. Shortly thereafter, however, the Court found, he began to supply a member of the organization with between 50-300 pounds of marijuana from New York. Clark either engaged in the transactions or brokered them until about September 11, 2001. The remainder of the conspiracy continued to operate until February 2003.
Other members of the conspiracy were arrested in 2003; however, authorities could not locate Clark. He was arrested on January 25, 2010, under the name “Oral Merchant” while attempting to enter Canada from Jamaica.
At a contested sentencing today, the Court found that Clark was an organizer, leader, manager and supervisor of the operation and that he was responsible for 3,000-10,000 kilograms of marijuana.
The case was investigated by agents of the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Virginia State Police. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephen W. Miller.